Synopsis: When a seasoned comedian in Funny People becomes terminally ill he takes a young performer under his wing, and seeks out the girl who got away for one last chance.
Release Date: July 31, 2009 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Comedy, Romance
On paper, the idea of meditating on life, death, one’s decisions, and the subsequent consequences through the eyes of comedians sounds amazing. Throw Director Judd Apatow into the equation and one fills up with warm excitement. And yet, Funny People never really works. The film serves as a behind the scenes look into the comedic writing process, but the audience is ultimately still left in the dark. Funny People tries also to be an insight into a typical comedian’s life: the struggle, competition, fame, loneliness; but the audience never really feels any of it. It’s as if weâve been invited to an intimate family dinner while knowing in the back of our heads that they don’t want us there at all. Add to all of this a slow moving 146 minute running time and the outcome is an ambitious challenge for artistic growth that unfortunately leaves the viewer saying, “nice try, better luck next time”.
The best thing about Funny People is Adam Sandler. Actors Leslie Mann and Eric Bana have their moments, Director Judd Apatow’s real-life children, Maude and Iris, are charming, but Sandler is the one that demands your focused attention. Finding out you’re going to die soon is meaty material for an actor and Adam Sandler handles it like a well-trained pro. Whether it be the initial discovery of a terminal disease, simply lying down in lonely contemplation, or the realization of love, one believes Sandler as George Simmons; the audience sees the pain and regret in his eyes. It’s too bad Funny People doesn’t pay off because Adam Sandler proves once again that he has the potential to be more than just a waterboy.
Thanks to some well-placed posters and photographs the production design in Funny People is top notch. With classy, framed images of iconic comedians such as Rodney Dangerfield and Peter Sellers hanging on the apartment walls of roommates Ira (Seth Rogen), Leo (Jonah Hill), and Mark (Jason Schwartzman), one really gets a sense of how much these guys worship comedy and what dreams they aspire to achieve. The real pleasure though, are all the artifacts that can be seen in George Simmon’s (Adam Sandler) mansion. There’s a picture of him with Snoop Dogg here and another picture of him in his youth with Conan O’Brien there; whether or not these photographs are from Adam Sandler’s actual career or George Simmon’s fictional one doesn’t matter. What does matter is the sense of nostalgia, background information, and authenticity these items help to create.
The fine balance between Drama and Comedy is a difficult task and the attempt to attain that balance more than takes its toll on Funny People’s comedic opportunities. There are some funny moments from a reliably filthy Jonah Hill here and there. There’s a random reference and a clever use of the song, “Time of my Life,” but other than that, the laughs are too few and far between. This is not to say Funny People isn’t full of jokes. The problem is the jokes aren’t funny. It’s understandable that some of the stand-up acts in the movie aren’t meant to be funny, but when they are supposed to finally be comical, the movie theater is just as quiet. With such a huge comedic cast and guest appearances, from Norm MacDonald to Eminem, it’s a shame that Apatow’s brand-name, raunchy humor is watered down by not so dramatic drama.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Judd Apatow
- Screenwriters: Nicholas Weinstock, Judd Apatow
- Cast: Seth Rogen (Ira Wright), Adam Sandler (George Simmons), Eric Bana (Clarke), Leslie Mann (Laura), Jonah Hill (Leo), Jason Schwartzman (Mark Taylor Jockson)
- Editor(s): Craig Alpert
- Cinematographer: Brent White
- Production Designer(s): Janusz Kaminski
- Country Of Origin: USA