Monday, August 8, 2016

Movie Review: "Funny People" (2009)

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Movie"Funny People"
Director: Judd Apatow
Year: 2009
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 26 minutes

Actor and comedian George Simmons (Adam Sandler) has just recently been diagnosed with a rare blood disease. With only an 8% chance of recovery, George starts to face his mortality and reflect on his life. Despite being rich and successful, he feels like his life is empty, having no real friends and having destroyed most relationships that meant anything to him over the course of his life. He decides to go back on the stand-up comedy circuit and hires an up-and-coming comedian named Ira Wright (Seth Rogen) to write jokes for him. Ira becomes the closest thing George has to a friend in his most desperate times, but if he is not careful, George may burn that bridge, too.

"Funny People" is the third film from director Judd Apatow, who previously directed the two smash hit comedies "The 40 Year Old Virgin" and "Knocked Up." Despite its title, "Funny People" marks a far more dramatic turn for Apatow. Though many of his films are comedies with dramatic undertones, this is really a drama at heart, it just so happens to be about comedians. The story revolves around an actor and comedian named George Simmons, played by Apatow's real life friend and former roommate Adam Sandler, who gets diagnosed with a rare blood disease and comes face-to-face with his own mortality. Now that he is sick, he is looking to mend the bridges he has burned over the curse of his life as he takes a young comedian named Ira, played by Seth Rogen, under his wing. George hires Ira to write jokes for him as he embarks on a resurgence of his stand-up comedy. Along the way, Ira becomes more than just George's employee and actually serves as his only true friend for most of the film, but that doesn't stop George from pushing Ira away and treating him like crap every chance he gets.

The character of George Simmons is written to be very much like the real Adam Sandler. George makes stupid movies that are very, very popular and have made him exorbitantly rich, and George knows his movies are vacuous pieces of idiotic crap, but does them anyway because he likes the money. This is exactly how we think Sandler feels about his own films, but hey, money! If Sandler differs from George in any way, we'd imagine Sandler to be a much nicer person in real life than the on-screen character of George, considering how loyal Sandler has been to his friends in keeping them gainfully employed via the aforementioned cinematic crapfests. Seth Rogen's Ira is a character we're sure other comedians can relate to as he is a struggling up-and-coming stand-up comic that writes his own jokes and is just attempting to make it in a town where there are dozens of comedians on every block. Ira has a moral compass not shared by his fellow comedians or his roommates. He typically tries to do what he thinks is right, often with disastrous results. The acting in "Funny People" is actually pretty solid, even from the likes of Sandler, who has shown he can still be a capable actor from time to time when he isn't doing his typical routine. Seth Rogen is also good as Ira, and though he plays mostly to type as a goofy comedian, the roles for both of these men are somehow much deeper than we anticipated. Jonah Hill, Jason Schwartzman, Leslie Mann, Eric Bana, and Aubrey Plaza all star as more minor characters and do good job in their supporting roles. There is also a slew of fun cameos from various comedians that pop up briefly throughout the film, and it's fun to point them out as they are paraded on screen.

Where this movie struggles is partially in its marketing. A movie starring the likes of Seth Rogen, Adam Sandler, Leslie Mann, and Jonah Hill, directed by Judd Apatow? Most mainstream audiences probably assumed this would be a Rogen or Sandler-style stoner comedy raunch-fest, only to discover this is actually a far more mature drama about terminal illness, regret, struggle, and relationships as a whole. We saw this movie many years ago when we weren't so forgiving and disliked it because we felt deceived by all of the above factors. In an effort to be unbiased, we watched "Funny People" again and liked it a little bit more this time around. Having gone through many big life changes and events over the past 7 years since we saw it last, we are able to have a better understanding of George's point of view and why he does the things he does. We also come to sympathize more with Ira for taking the brunt of George's abuse while he's sick. Unfortunately, the film is atrociously paced. "Funny People" is already long to begin with at 146 minutes, so when you add on a horrible pace, it feels closer to 292 minutes long. Chances are, the film will lose you somewhere between the second and third act. There comes a point where we thought things were finally wrapping up and coming to an appropriate end, and then we noticed the movie still had more than an hour left to go. It's slower than a three-legged turtle.

In the end, "Funny People" will draw you in with its surprisingly great acting from Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen, only to lose you with its awful pacing. Apatow loves his elongated films, but we feel like this one didn't really need the embellishment at the end. Any moving moments are offset by the extra, unnecessary ones. This movie had the potential to be a lot better, but it seems like the ball got dropped just a little bit when touched with an overzealous, heavy-handed Apatow.

My Rating: 6/10
BigJ's Rating: 5.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 68%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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