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Funny People movie poster

Funny People: Movie Review

Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rated: R
Directed by:
Judd Apatow
Starring: Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann, Jonah Hill, Jason Schwartzman,
Eric Bana,
Released by: Universal Pictures

In Short: Comedy darling Judd Apatow stumbles a bit with this overly long, slightly sappy story of a very unhappy famous comedian who contracts a deadly illness.
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No Laughing Matter
Anger, Illness, Loneliness and Impending Death
All Impinge on Comedy

It’s dangerous to call a movie Funny People and then get all serious and slightly sappy. But that’s just what writer-director and all-around current Golden Boy of Hollywood comedy Judd Apatow has done with his new film, and the results are decidedly mixed.

He’s definitely a funny filmmaker, as he proved with The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up; he's clever, too, to cast Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen as his leading men in Funny People. Sandler plays George Simmons, a wildly successful comedian and actor, and something of a curmudgeon, who lives in a huge empty mansion and basically hates himself and everyone else. When he finds out that he has a fatal blood disease, he adds depression to his list of not-very-appealing personal qualities.

Enter Seth Rogen, as Ira Wright, currently a loser, but an aspiring stand-up comedian with dreams of fame and fortune. He shares a place with Jonah Hill and Jason Schwartzman; the three could not be a more sexually unappealing trio if they tried, and their interplay isn’t exactly hilarious, either.

Adam Sandler, Eric Bana and Seth Rogen in Funny People Leslie Mann and Adam Sandler in Funny People

As Simmons befriends Wright and then hires him to be his assistant/only friend, there are definitely some comic moments that get the audience laughing. But Apatow’s film isn’t really about much funny stuff. Instead, it’s about facing death, finding lost loves, reconnecting with family, and ultimately addressing the fact that the protagonist of the story is a total jerk, always was and apparently will be until he dies.

Finding sympathy for Sandler’s jerky character comes somewhat easily at first, but as the film drags on and on—with a running time of close to 2.5 hours—he reconnects with his true love (played by Apatow’s real-life wife Leslie Mann), who is now married to a hot Australian hunk (Eric Bana), and sympathy for the jerk goes out the window. And so do the laughs.

Perhaps the fact that Judd Apatow has had such huge successes leading up to Funny People meant that his studio bosses gave him a free rein and were loath to criticize the length and corny moments of the final half hour. Whatever the reason, this film is actually a terrific comedy that gets drowned in the surrounding sap. It's too bad, since both Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen give two of the best performances of their careers in the film.

Reviewed by Jenny Peters

PKR061809 (Updated: 07/31/09 KR)

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