“Funny People”

Rated R for language and crude sexual humor throughout, and some sexuality.



Stand up comedy: It is a tough business. That seems to be the point of “Funny People”; writer and director Judd Apatow’s latest film.

George Simmons (Adam Sandler) is a very successful actor in comedy films. He got his start in stand-up comedy. Now, he has a fabulous house on the ocean. He is single, lonely, and dying of a rare form of leukemia. When he gets the word of his prognosis, his comedy goes dark and consequently gets few laughs behind the nightclub mic.

Ira Wright (Seth Rogen) is an aspiring stand-up comic and deli worker. He lives with two other comics, Mark Taylor Jackson (Jason Schwartzman), who is on a really bad TV comedy, and Leo Koenig (Jonah Hill) who is another stand-up comic wannabe. Jackson is earning $25,000 per episode while both Ira and Leo suffer from a bad case of success-envy.

One night, at a comic nightclub, Ira and Leo do a “set” each and are seen by George. George sees something in the younger comics and asks Ira if he and his chunky buddy would like to write some jokes for him. Ira fails to share the offer with Leo and takes the job for himself. When he sees what fame is like, he is smitten. Eventually he learns about George’s fatal illness and the two bond.

It is a rather dysfunctional relationship.

George, while feeling blue being at death’s door, thinks back on how his philandering ruined the one relationship he actually cared about: the girlfriend, that got away. Laura (Leslie Mann) not only got away, she has moved up state, married an Aussie, and had two sweet little girls. George wants to apologize to her (again and again) in teary, late night, phone calls. They eventually reunite.

It is a rather dysfunctional relationship.

And there is another pairing waxing and waning in this movie: one between comedy and sentimentality. A man generating laughter while crying (and dying) on the inside. A string of naughty, earthy, stand-up jokes (mostly about male genitalia) and then gazing wistfully into the middle distance obviously contemplating fatality; a melding of euphoria and dysphoria.

It is a rather dysfunctional relationship.

For a joke to work well, the punchline should not be too long in coming. Part of the problem with “Funny People” is that it is way, way too long. It is two hours, 26 minutes in length; an hour too long.

Stand up comedy is often “adult,” I know that, and can appreciate much of it, but these jokes seem like cracks made by a bunch of drunk frat brats; funny to them, juvenile to most of us. These gags get dull quickly. Laughter is a nervous reaction…highly dependent upon surprise. If the audience knows each joke is going to be about sex, flatulence, or the male member, that missing ingredient fails to trigger the appropriate reaction.

I also think movies about a person with a fatal illness are rather shop-worn and tiresome. I thought so back when I saw “Love Story.” Two generations later, it has become a cliche.

There were two nice scenes: one involved a little girl singing “Memories” and the other one…oh, wait, I forgot the other one. You see, I am already forgetting the movie. It is a survival instinct.

A good film needs to know where it is going and it is best when it does not go in two different directions at the same time.

It makes for a rather dysfunctional film.

“Funny People” earns two bow ties out of five.

React to this story:

0
0
0
0
0

Trending Video

Recommended for you