Rating: 5 Pulses
Starring Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann
Directed by Judd Apatow
Judd Apatow’s third film, Funny People, finds the prolific producer practicing the same style of crude humor mixed with touching sentimentality that made TV’s “Freaks and Geeks” and “Undeclared” such gems and has since earned him wunderkind status with the endearing and hilarious The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up. Though still reveling in the juvenile glee of dick jokes and pop culture obscurities, Funny People finds Apatow and friends in a far more pensive and contemplative mood.
Mimicking real life, Adam Sandler is George Simmons, a successful funny man known for such gimmicky tripe flicks as Re-Do, in which a wizard gives him a baby’s body, and Merman, in which he plays a merman. Upon receiving bad news at the doctor’s office, George is faced with his own mortality, reflecting upon his life and career only to find an unsatisfied mind. In a sort of existential quest for his comedic roots, George asks struggling young comedian Ira Wright (Rogen) to be his writer and assistant in what becomes a sort of “Adventures in Dying Celebrity-Sitting.” Eventually, George, with the renewed vim and vigor that only comes from facing Death, foolishly falls for his old flame (Mann), rivaling The Dark Knight’s Two-Face ending as the latest. subplot. ever.
One of the things Apatow is best known for is the natural quality imbued in his writing and characters. Funny People is no different. Despite dealing heavily in the “industry,” the characters and performers, from up-and-comer Ira, to seasoned schmuck George, to Ira’s douche roommate Mark (Jason Schwartzman), star of the shit-com “Yo, Teach!,” all exhibit a flawed and relatable humanity. It’s a shame then that the jokes too often suffer under the weight of a maudlin story line, and the improvisational naturalism too frequently results in throw-away “your dick is so small/huge” jokes, especially after the online videos of “Yo, Teach!” and college comedian Randy (Aziz Ansari) promised a parodical paradise.
Ultimately though, Apatow’s elegy to comedians?rife with cameos more befitting the DVD, and Oscar schmaltzy though it may seem?has its heart in the right place. And with such an emphasis on heart, for better or worse, Funny People has more chuckles than guffaws, and a deeper maturity than his previous films.