When seasoned comedian George Simmons learns of his terminal, inoperable health condition, his desire to form a genuine friendship cause him to take a relatively green performer under his wing as his opening act.
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George is a very successful stand up comedian who learns that he has an untreatable blood disorder and is given less than a year to live. Ira is a struggling up-and-coming stand up comedian who works at a deli and has yet to figure out his onstage persona. One night, these two perform at the same club and George takes notice of Ira. George hires Ira to be his semi-personal assistant as well as his friend. Written by
"Funny People" was a funny movie, and a sincere and heartfelt one, too!
Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen star in "Funny People," a movie that is indeed about the strangely fascinating lives of several stand-up comedians in Los Angeles and contains a great many funny one-liners, but it's also about life, love, friendship, and trying to get through hard times one joke at a time.
That the movie is written and directed by Judd Apatow, doesn't that just make your teeth want to fall out? After all, he was the guy behind "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" (2005) and "Knocked Up" (2007). Those movies contained plenty of jokes about male anatomy and plenty of pop culture references to get your mouth watery, but underneath all the humor of those films were touching subtexts about life, love, and friendship that may go unnoticed by some viewers.
"Funny People" has layers of love and friendship in between the fart and sex jokes, and also another career highlight from Sandler. We've grown used to seeing him as the "big kid," from movies like "Billy Madison" (1995), "Happy Gilmore" (1996), and "Big Daddy" (1999). But we've also seen touching, grown-up performances from other movies as well, such as "Punch-Drunk Love" (2002) and "Reign Over Me" (2007), the latter film of which I haven't seen yet. ("Punch-Drunk Love" is my favorite film of his so far.) In those two films, we've noted the emotional depth and dramatic potential in Sandler that can, and has gone unnoticed by his more mainstream audiences. Those looking for something deeper found that Sandler does indeed possess some strong dramatic talents, in addition to being your typical funny-man; all it takes is a decent script and a decent director to bring him out of his shell.
In "Funny People," Sandler is George Simmons, a famous L.A. stand-up comedian who as the film opens, has been diagnosed with a rare and inoperable form of leukemia. But what's even more shocking is the revelation of the greatest tragedy of George's life: he's alone, with no one to tell of his condition - success has come at the cost of many relationships, both familial and romantic. Ira Wright (Rogen) is a young, up-and-coming comedic talent who catches George's attention one night during one of his stand-up routines and offers him a job as his opening act and joke writer. Wright then leaves his job at a supermarket deli, and leaving behind his roommates Leo (Jonah Hill) and Mark (Jason Schwarztman). So now it seems that for the first time in his life, George now has someone to call his friend.
And because George is sensing that his time is short, he returns to his roots, frequenting the small-time stand-up scene from which he came. He also takes it upon himself to reinvigorate his relationship with his ex, Laura (Apatow's real-life wife and Sandler's "Big Daddy" co-star, Leslie Mann), who is now married to the hunky Aussie Clarke (Eric Bana) and together they now have two children. And poor George is also looking to bring in poor Ira in on his attempts to win back the girl that got away.
"Funny People" is a very funny movie indeed. But it's also quite moving, with a touching subtext involving a yearning for better times. I already said that Adam Sandler is the best performer here. We still see some shades of his classic "big kid" in there, but we also see that he has indeed grown up some, to the point that he can reassess his life and look back on the mistakes that he's made and try to correct them, like the re-ignition of his love for old flame Laura. It's also interesting that the movie opens up with footage of Sandler in his younger days prank phone-calling people, and this provides some background on his character's descent into a state of emotional despair with no one around to hear his cries for love and companionship. He's an unlikeable likable jerk here, one of the unique firsts of his career.
Additionally, there's also an affecting and subtle performance from Seth Rogen as Ira Wright. There's some traces of his affable slacker here, but for the most part he's seen as someone who is ambitious and wants to make something of himself, even though he still sleeps on his roommate's fold-out couch. He's out there to get his slice of the pie, and George may very well be his ticket to that pie. Rogen proves that he is indeed quite funny on his own, and it's also interesting to note that Sandler is old enough to be his father, both in the movie and in real-life, so we kind of get a touching father-son dynamic going on between the two.
A movie about comedians would not be complete without appearances from other well-known faces in stand-up, including Andy Dick, Norm MacDonald, Paul Reiser, Ray Romano, and Sarah Silverman. Other celebrities include rappers RZA and Eminem. (The scene with Eminem is so incredibly well-written and acted by the rapper that either way you fall out laughing at the violent sexual aggression present in the humor.) And lastly, in a movie about penis and fart jokes, comedienne Daisy (Aubrey Plaza) provides an interesting contrast to her male counterparts.
"Funny People" is, in my opinion, Apatow's best film yet. The movie runs 152 min. in length (in its unrated extended version, that is, from which this review is based), but I guarantee you the movie rarely falters during its run time. It is a legitimate criticism of a movie that could logically do way better at just two hours in length, but it keeps you watching so you're not looking back and forth at your watch in annoyance. The acting and strong performances from the leads, and the strong writing/direction from Judd Apatow makes this one serious comedy to remember.
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