Saturday, August 8, 2009
I freely admit to liking many of Adam Sandler's films. 50 First Dates and Reign Over Me are two of my favorites. Sandler also did Little Nicky, one of the most horrendously awful flicks I've ever seen. Just goes to show that nobody can be ON all the time. In Funny People, a Judd Apatow film about the behind the scenes lives of comedians, Sandler and his supporting cast are definitely ON.
Sandler is George Simmons, a famous comedian who gets a glimpse of his own mortality when he's diagnosed with a rare and likely fatal disease. Ira Wright (Seth Rogan) is an aspiring comic who lucks into the role of joke writer and all around lackey for Simmons. As George contemplates his own demise, his onstage routines become darker. He wants to sell off some of his possessions. He calls his ex-girlfriend, Laura, (Leslie Mann) whom he cheated on, and apologizes.
Ira is there to hold George's hand and humor him. Rogan is excellent as a basically nice guy who's so awestruck to be rubbing elbows with stardom that he'll debase himself in just about any manner, just to stay cozy with George. Ira is clueless about how to score with chicks--mouth agape at how easily the jaded George does it, and otherwise takes the perks and trappings of his stardom for granted.
When George's condition improves, as a result of the experimental treatments he's been receiving, he's at a loss for what to do with the rest of his life. Funny People enters a new phase when George and Laura appear to be getting back together--until her lothario husband, Clarke, (Eric Bana) shows up unexpectedly, and the fisticuffs are on.
Unlike The Ugly Truth, (which is fresh in my mind because I just reviewed it) the laughs in Funny People aren't set up or PLAYED just for laughs--all the events flow in a logical progression from what came before, giving this movie a real life feel to it that is rare these days. The profanity here is descriptive and relentless, but it doesn't FEEL as dirty as the gutter talk in The Ugly Truth, which is gratuitous and comes out of nowhere. Here, the trash talking is funny, a plausible extension of the characters' personalities.
And while Funny People lives up to its name throughout, the movie is too long (2 hours and 25 minutes) and bogs down near the end. But I can understand if Apatow, Sandler, and company felt they had too much good material--so many belly laughs--and couldn't bear to part with any of it.
Through all of its twists and turns, the one thread that runs through this film is that of male bonding, and how it can sometimes get lost in all the posturing and colorful language guys are compelled to bounce off each other...in order to mask their true affection for one another.