When seasoned comedian George Simmons (Adam Sandler) learns of his terminal, inoperable health condition, he takes the relatively green performer Ira Wright (Seth Rogen) under his wing as his opening act. And as his assistant. The relationship is turbulent, and becomes more so when George and his ex-wife (Leslie Mann) start making moves to reunite, despite her 12 year marriage to Clarke (Eric Bana), an Australian equivalent of George as far as fidelity is concerned.
Review by Louise Keller:
Don't be misled by the title of Judd Apatow's latest film. Rather than being a laugh-a-minute movie, Funny People hones in on a darker side of the people whose livelihood is comedy. Spearheading the Apatow regulars like Seth Rogan, Jonah Hill, Jason Schwartzman and Leslie Mann, is Adam Sandler in great form as the stand-up comic confronted by a sobering hit of reality. It's essentially a slice of life from a pie whose ingredients comprise the eccentricities, foibles, egos and motivations of jaded man who has forgotten why he does what he does. There are some great moments but plenty of self indulgence by Apatow as the film drags at an overlong 146 minutes.
When we first meet Rogan's Ira Wright, an aspiring comedy writer and occasional stand up comic, his reality is making macaroni salad in a Mall deli. The $1,500 per week offered by Sandler's famous comedy star George Simmons to be his assistant is a far cry from that, but little does he imagine it means not only writing gags and performing, but becoming his confidante and patting him on the back when vomiting in the toilet bowl. Apatow decides against pushing emotional buttons. Instead, he makes George a tough son-of-a-you-know-what, who is cynical and heartless, and as a result, the experience we go through is an unexpected and slightly unconventional one in which much of the action feels as though we are just hanging out with Adam Sandler and Seth Rogan.
When diagnosed with a form of leukemia, George gets a chance to re-evaluate his life. Those star-crazed babes who offer sex to celebrities are no longer of interest. It's his ex Laura (Apatow's wife, Leslie Mann, always excellent) that is the prize, while Rogan's Ira is inadvertently swept into the lifestyle to which he thought he aspired. The laughs don't come from the gags delivered at the Improv Comedy Club, but from the characterisations and associated dialogue. I love the scene when George's ultra tall blond Swedish Dr Lars (Torsten Voges) is likened to the baddie in Die Hard 2 and the butt of other movie-jokes and Eric Bana is a welcome lively addition as Laura's unfaithful, broadly Aussie husband. Rogan plays Rogan (as Ira) and I laughed when Jonah Hill's character Leo is described as being a fat version of Ira. Isn't that what we always thought? There's plenty of crassness - size, thickness and effectiveness of penises is hot on the topic list, while the issues involving life, death and relationships spin wildly, like a top on speed.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
This sprawling and overlong buddy movie has a good heart but its head is probably suffering a hangover, judging by the rambling and swaying screenplay. A surfeit of the kind of crude, sexually graphic jokes that work in a darkly lit stand up comedy stores and Adam Sandler's unremittingly morose George drag the film down. (Is contempo American comedy solely reliant on penis jokes?) In the absence of wit we are given little of interest beyond the malaise of the central character: his terminal illness and the progress of his condition provides the plot engine, and is used to steer the action.
At 40, George is feeling his age in a comedic world dominated by younger folk; he's also miserably, lonesomely rich. When he sees Ira work one of the non-paying comedy gigs, he hires him to write some gags, but we can't see why. Ira is not that funny. OK, let's say comedy is a personal thing, and they start to bond in a stop-start sort of way. Nothing much happens besides some banter between them and between Ira and his struggling comic friend Leo (Jonah King) and the more successful Mark (Jason Schwartzman) who makes $25,000 a week in a sitcom.
George's terminal illness is kept under wraps - for while. Soon everyone comes to make peace with him, including his ex-wife, Laura (Leslie Mann) who now has two daughters from her hubby, the Aussie bloke, Clarke (Eric Bana). Bana is one of the film's saviours, playing a nicely judged ambitious business type who has the occasional one night stands.
The other highlight is a splendid cameo by Torsten Voges as the Swedish Dr Lars, treating George. His dray, perfectly pitched performance is so authentic I would believe it if he turned out to be a real person, filmed in secret. Seth Rogen is an acquired taste (I have yet to acquire) and Leslie Mann is ideally cast as the confused woman who is not quite sure of her heart - except that it's quite big. Aubrey Plaza is terrific as Daisy, Ira's dream strikingly frank girlfriend with striking looks. Her dialogue and that of Dr Lars are some of the best in the film.
The film does find a resolution of sorts, but it take so long to unwrap it that it's hard to maintain interest, given that neither George nor Ira are the kind of guys we can really dig. It's not really a comedy - it's not funny enough - but a (rather deep down sad) buddy movie about comedians.
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FUNNY PEOPLE (MA)
CAST: Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann, Eric Bana, Jonah Hill, Jason Schwartzman, Aubrey Plaza, Maude Apatow, RZA, Aziz Ansari, Torsten Voges, Allan Wasserman
PRODUCER: Judd Apatow, Barry Mendel, Clayton Townsend
DIRECTOR: Judd Apatow
SCRIPT: Judd Apatow
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Janusz Kaminski
EDITOR: Craig Alpert, Brent White
MUSIC: Michael Andrews, Jason Schwartzman
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jefferson Sage
RUNNING TIME: 146 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 10, 2009