Review: Funny People (2009)

Funny People

Directed by: Judd Apatow
Starring: Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann

When famous actor/comedian George Simmons very unexpectedly contracts a rare terminal illness, he develops a sort of need to reach out and form a genuine bond with someone outside of the world Hollywood has shaped for him. Luckily, he eventually finds solace in that of up and coming stand-up comic Ira Wright, of whom he eventually hires to be his personal assistant in order to potentially fulfill his needs. What ensues is essentially a journey through a plethora of emotional ups and downs as George struggles with his disease, the proverbial girl that got away, and learning how to rid himself of the flaws that’ve left him unhappy in his pursuit of a desirable lifestyle. This in mind, Funny People is Judd Apatow’s latest foray into the world of cinema that touches upon comedy as a career and the second chances some of us are granted that can potentially change our lives for the better.

Apatow’s latest has been widely praised as being the most personal and ultimately most mature entry into his ever-expanding filmography. Unfortunately, it’s because of this that a substantial amount of Funny People‘s 2 hour and 20 minute runtime seems to function better as a full-blown drama than the comedy it was marketed as. In fact, the comedic elements manage to come off as incredibly inconsisent when paired with the seriousness of those events surrounding Sandler’s character and his plight. I can appreciate Apatow’s approach in this regard and his obvious intentions with the material, but the scenes featuring any type of stand-up act just aren’t very funny, and any attempt at procuring a laugh outside of them seem to rely a little too heavily on references to male genitalia.

Thankfully, Funny People is wonderfully heartfelt and just plain touching, with Sandler proving to us once again that he’s no slouch when it comes down to taking on some more serious roles. Apatow’s very ample direction allows for terrific and believable interaction between all of the characters, and although the involvement of some are questionable, it’s hard to not appreciate the film as whole despite some minor marketing mistakes. This in mind, I found it much easier to recognize and appreciate it as a full-blown drama with a plot that touches upon the reality of the comedy industry, rather than a typical Apatow laugh riot.

In addition to Sandler’s dynamite effort, the rest of the ensemble cast is just as admirable, even if I didn’t particularly take a liking to Rogen’s character at several points throughout the film. To be honest, my reasoning behind these feelings of dislike can most likely be attributed to the less than favorable jabs at comic relief, but to not recognize the excellent chemistry exhibited between just about every member of the cast, Eric Bana included, would just be plain unfair. After all, I should I probably stop letting my high expectations of a particular film affect my opinions of any one performance or how good it is in general.

When you get right down to it, Funny People can be considered yet another entry into 2009’s promising lineup that has failed to be everything I thought it’d be. But, what Apatow’s latest lacks in terms of everything you’d come to expect in a project he’s helmed, he more than makes up for in the form of an undoubtedly more mature, appropriately earnest script that’s appealing in a whole new way. Sandler’s terrific performance and those of others add to the overall appeal as well, but just try to be wary of the flaws I’ve outlined including an exceptionally long runtime, of which may not please fans of the acclaimed writer/director’s previous efforts.

Rating: 6/10

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