Funny People (2009)
Director: Judd Apatow
Starring: Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann
George Simmons (Adam Sandler), is a successful comedian who has starred in a bunch of ridiculously stupid, but wildly popular low-brow comedies. When Simmons discovers that he has a rare blood disease that doesn't have a cure, he also realizes how empty and lonely his life is, so he goes back to the comedy club where he got his start to do random sets of stand up. There he meets Ira Wright (Seth Rogen), a struggling comedian who has flashes of genius, but whose low self-confidence and affable personality don't really equal success in this cutthroat industry. Simmons employs Wright first to write some jokes for him, then hires him as a personal assistant. Wright encourages Simmons to tell his friends about his condition, which leads to a reunion with the love of his life, Laura (Leslie Mann) who is now married with two children. When his health suddenly takes a turn for the better, he decides to try to win her back, bringing Ira with him.
Though I can be called the complete opposite of an Adam Sandler fan, I actually really loved the film Punch Drunk Love, and his performance in it, so seeing that Funny People wasn't going to only be stupid humor, I was encouraged. Indeed, the film was darker than some of Apatow's other films that I've seen (which truthfully, aren't a ton) but it still fell short of being as meaningful as I think it was trying to be. I didn't come away from the film feeling like there was a tremendous amount of character development throughout the film despite the fact that growing up and finding oneself was one of the film's purported themes. Though dark, the film was littered with juvenile humor and dick jokes - I lost count of how many times Sandler asked Rogen to take his out and show him - sometimes worked. James Taylor blurting out "Fuck Facebook!" actually made me laugh out loud, and the entire scene in the vaguely European doctor's office when Rogen and Sandler riff on the doctor's accent, "Are you mad that you died at the end of Die Hard?" was priceless. But I would say that more than half of the jokes fell totally flat, and combined with the stilted progression of the film left me pretty lukewarm.
What did work, however, was the cast. Sandler, though not as compelling or vulnerable as he was in Punch Drunk Love, was a great choice for the role of George Simmons. I've only seen Seth Rogen in a couple of films, but every time I have found him to be completely charming and easy to relate to. Though the film is primarily about Simmons and his struggle, it is Ira Wright who I found more interesting and well rounded. The supporting cast worked really well too; Jonah Hill played the same guy he always does: clever, cocky and nerdy, Jason Schwartzman's narcissistic actor role was hilarious (I'm pretty sure I haven't seen him play a character badly) and Eric Bana looked like he was having a good time playing Laura's husband, an Aussie blowhard who borders on ridiculous. Truthfully, the only role that could have really gone to anyone was Laura's and it's not that Leslie Mann did a poor job, it just wasn't that memorable of a performance.
Though I liked Funny People less than I anticipated, it still was an entertaining film to watch, but mainly it was because of Seth Rogen's character and performance. At over two and a half hours, it's definitely a time investment, only made wise if you are fan of the actors or director, or, if like me, you are open to take a chance on a film you normally wouldn't seek out.
3 out of 5 stars