By Jenny Peters
“Funny People” just isn’t that funny, sad to say. Sure, it has its moments – many of which you have already seen in the commercials and the trailer – and it is actually an Adam Sandler movie that didn’t make me want to run screaming from the theater. But this way-too-long look at a nasty millionaire movie-star comedian who discovers he has a deadly illness misses the mark, being neither a good comedy nor a good drama.
Writer-director Judd Apatow is Hollywood’s current fair-haired boy, with a pile of previous movie successes under his belt, including “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up, “ two truly hilarious comedies that he also wrote and directed, and “Superbad,” “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” and “Pineapple Express,” which he produced. But all that success seems to mean that no one will tell the emperor that he has no clothes; in other words, no one in his inner circle is willing to say, “Judd, cut thirty minutes out of the movie, get rid of all the schmaltzy stuff, and throw in some more jokes.”
So instead, Apatow delivers a tepid movie that runs almost 2.5 hours. That alone is bad enough, but he’s got it packed with dramatic moments that only succeed in helping us to dislike his protagonist even more than we did when we met him. Sandler plays George Simmons, a fortyish stand-up comic turned huge movie star (think Robin Williams or Billy Crystal) who at the very beginning of the film finds out that he is very likely going to die from a rare blood disease.
As he grapples with that reality, another reality seeps in. He’s a guy without any friends, who has also cut himself off from his family as well. He’s very rich man living in a huge mansion, and only servants to keep him company. So in a desperate attempt to connect with someone before he goes to that big comedy club in the sky, he hires aspiring comedian Ira Wright (Seth Rogen) to write some jokes for him, and to, more importantly, keep him company in his hour of need.
The funny moments come in the interplay with Rogen and Sandler; the unfunny stuff happens when Sandler reunites with Leslie Mann (Apatow’s real-life wife), the love of his life who is now married to an Australian hunk (Eric Bana) and has two daughters (the Apatow’s real-life children). Nepotism aside, it is this whole subplot that derails the film, sending it into a sentimental place where there is no room for laughter.
Throw in the scenes with the completely unappealing Jason Schwartzman and Jonah Hill as Rogen’s jerky roommates, and the result is that whole sections of “Funny People” are just not even amusing, let alone funny.
But don’t get me wrong. This is not a terrible movie. Just an average flick that should have been better, with a bit of judicious cutting. And certainly not the lively, enjoyable theater experience that Apatow’s first two directing efforts provided. Too bad.
Stars: Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann, Jonah Hill, Jason Schwartzman, Eric Bana
Director: Judd Apatow
Studio/Official Site: http://www.funnypeoplemovie.com/