Funny People

Yet again with Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow. This one's called Funny People. It doesn't have the snap, crackle and pop of The 40 Year-Old Virgin, nor the self-consciousness of Knocked Up. What it does have is humour, heart, Adam Sandler and another movie trapped inside it.

In a revelatory performance, Sandler is George Simmons, a wildly successful stand-up comedian who receives terrifying medical news. As he descends into a soul-searching depression, he spots Ira (Rogen) trying to develop his own career. Ira’s routine includes taking swipes at George’s success and following the audience's uproarious response; George hires the fledgling comedian to write him some new material. A close friendship is forged with George confiding all to Ira, the former trying to repair damage he caused due to his runaway success and the latter enjoying the luxurious perks of his new friendship. And then… George goes into remission and foolishly tries to reclaim the love of his life, Laura (Apatow’s heavily accented wife Leslie Mann), who is now married with two children that, naturally, sees George and Ira’s friendship put to the test.
Sandler is just perfect. With smart economy, he embodies the physicality and tics of stardom. He looks the part, shuffling about, and that charm he exudes is unique; at times it’s hard to believe he was ever any other kind of person. As Ira, Rogen is effortlessly likable. When in the company of his flat mates Jonah (Leo Koenig) and Mark (Jason Schwartzman), Funny People climbs to another place altogether as Apatow's expert direction makes their scenes the flick's best moments; I'd love a movie focusing on these three characters. Sadly, when George hears the good news, all the great wealth the tale’s built up starts to wobble as he reverts to his former self.
When offstage, these characters are very funny; penis jokes naturally abound and naked emotions spin on revelations and accusations. Eric Bana swoops on his role as Laura’s philandering husband obsessed with Eastern culture and pumps up the pedestrian action of the second half. What’s curious about Funny People is how unfunny these characters are when performing. Watch for a scene where Ira is reading George new material he’s penned with George loudly exclaiming “That’s funny!” Is he telling Ira or us? Still, it's a delightful romp despite the lack of balance. At two hours plus, it’s too long and while self-indulgence may be Apatow’s enemy, it isn’t Sandler’s.
Michael Dalton

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