Monday, August 10, 2009
Movie Review: Funny People
I actually saw Funny People last week while I was in Chicago. To be honest, it wasn't that good. Directed by Judd Apatow or Knocked Up and The 40 Year Old Virgin fame, its a film that stars Adam Sandler, Seth Rogan, Leslie Mann, and appearance by Jonah Hill and Jason Schwartzman. Despite this stellar cast, the movie falls into the same traps as Knocked Up, and some of the other Apatow produced flicks have as of late, indecision.
The movies stars Adam Sandler as George Simmons, a wealthy and successful comedian and actor who is diagnosed with a terminable blood disease. George has been making successful, if not rewarding, comedies much like the films he makes in real life, playing of his man child, goofy humor image. Within though, George has several problems that the illness brings to the surface, loneliness, apathy, regrets, fears. While at a comedy club doing some really dark stand up, he meets Rogan's character and hires him as a comedy writer/assistant. Rogan's character, Ira, is a struggling comic working at a deli who sleeps on his friends coach. His friends, Schwartzman and Hill are both more successful than him. Schwartzman is the lead on a lame TV show called Hey Teach, and Hill is having more success with stand up than he.
Sandler begins to undergo experimental procedures to treat his malady, while he and Rogan get closer, doing stand up performances and traveling together. Eventually, Sandler comes to realize that he is dying and tries to re-attach with his estranged family and with the only woman he ever loved. The love of his life, who had left him some years earlier due to his chronic infidelity, has since remarried and had children. Re-connecting with ex-flame Laura (Leslie Mann) begins to stir the old feelings he has held inside for so long, an due to his illness, she is open to talking to him again.
Sandler begins a path to change the things he is unhappy with in his life, re-connecting with people and donating to charity. This change of heart and change of lifestyle, whereas he realizes that for all his wealth and fame he doesn't really have anyone except Ira, his paid assistant. This also gets the communication re-opened with Laura. When Sandler discovers that the experimental medication he has been taking is working, he thinks this is his chance to get at the life he really wants, and arranges to spend a weekend with Laura and her kids at her house. Laura is unhappy in her marriage and she believes that her husband is cheating on her during his business trips. Sandler thinks that this is his chance to re-kindle the old romance.
Problems arise on the trip to visit her in the unexpected arrival by her husband (Eric Bana) from his trip early. Sandler comes quickly to realize while he does love Laura he may not be ready for the full package of kids and a domestic life. Meanwhile, Bana discovers the truth behind Sandler's visits and that he is not sick anymore thanks to Rogan's interference. Faced with the betrayal of his only friend, and the realization that the one love of his life may still love her husband, Sandler has to find out where his new life starts, or if his old life ever ended.
Overall Funny People wasn't that funny to be truthful. It fell into a trap that Apatow has been leaning closer too on his films, losing the humor inside the message of the film. Often comics draw their humor and jokes from the darkness in thier life and in this film, it really gets mired in that. The movie becomes so much about the dark message of Sandler's character, that the humor only really comes from the ancillary characters. Even then it's not that much. I felt like I spent the whole movie waiting for it to get funny, it just didn't.
I will say I appreciated Sandler tackling a subject matter that he normally avoids. In the film he kind of lampoons his own film and career choices, making goofy dumb humor films that people love. Unfortunately if you went into the film expecting some of that, you are not going to get it. I went in looking for something along the lines of the 40 Year Old Virgin, humor with a heart. Here its just heavy handed in its message. Sandler really plies some depth into his character and takes the identity on a journey, only to find that not every road leads where you think it will.
Seth Rogan is neither good nor bad in the film, he just is. He brings to the table a role we all can relate to him, the everyman schlub who tries to do the right thing. It's certainly not breaking any new ground for the actor. Leslie Mann, Jonah Hill and Jason Schartzman try to infuse some humor into the movie, but its a little far between. The bit of casting I did like was Eric Bana as the over the top manic Australian who really brought some energy and fun to what is a fairly down trodden film. Whereas Rogan or Sandler kind of lurched into humor, he brought some energy to what I felt was a fairly lethargic film.
This is a film best rented. It does manage a few chuckles, but loses its humor by being overly preachy and dark. The humor that is thrown in really tries to offset the message, but it comes up short. You don't really get attached to any of teh characters, Sandler is to much of an egoist, Rogan to much of a schlub, and Leslie Mann to much of a dichotomy to know where she is going. I really hope Apatow can get back to his comedic roots and find the funny again. I think the 40 Year Old Virgin was one of the best comedies of all time, and I hope he can re-capture that lightning again. Overall, Funny People just needed one more thing to be successful, some funny people.
End of Line.