When seasoned comedian George Simmons learns of his terminal, inoperable health condition, his desire to form a genuine friendship causes him to take a relatively green performer under his wing as his opening act.
Pete and Debbie are both about to turn 40, their kids hate each other, both of their businesses are failing, they're on the verge of losing their house, and their relationship is threatening to fall apart.
A man who lost his family in the September 11 attack on New York City runs into his old college roommate. Rekindling the friendship is the one thing that appears able to help the man recover from his grief.
Jada Pinkett Smith
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
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Not very funny. Not deep. Not engaging. Not Apatow's best.
Everyone loves an epic. Check that, bigtime directors love crafting that epic movie that spans over two and a half hours and will be remembered for that specific work of art for decades to come. At one point or another, every director that hits the peak of popularity will attempt to make that major, perfect film. With Baz Luhrmann it was "Australia." With Sergio Leone it was "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly." With Charlie Chaplain it was "The Great Dictator." With James Cameron it was "Titanic." With Ridley Scott it was "Gladiator." With D.W. Griffith it was "Intolerance." And of course, with Spielberg, he had more than one attempt with "Saving Private Ryan" and "A.I." as examples. All the films mentioned above took time, took plenty of money, and of course maintain a long running time. There is one final similarity: none of these films were their best work.
Enter Judd Apatow. Establishing himself as a big success story, he sets off with a deep and engaging comedy/drama about comedians. It would clock in at over 150 minutes; it would involve multiple themes, would have extensive long shots of characters going through emotions and whatnot, and would pretty much be the defining film of his career. Only one problem: it's rather bland. Funny People isn't that funny, isn't that deep, isn't that engaging, and as a matter of fact ultimately collapses in the third act (that refuses to end). Nobody in the movie was likable (except for Seth Rogan's character) and the addition of Apatow's family in the flick turns it into a heavy production version of a home video.
Funny People follows a famous and extremely successful comedian George Simmons (Adam Sandler) learning that he is dying from a rare disease, and his only hope for survival relies on a series of experimental medicines that has a track record of not working. With a grim outlook on life, George takes a comedian under his wing (sort of) and starts making amends with all of the major people in his life. Ira (Seth Rogan) is the comedian under Simmons' wing, as he tries to build a success being a stand-up comedian. But little by little Ira realizes that George's life isn't clean-cut pretty, and that George isn't the best human being, even if he is the best comedian.
The biggest problem with Funny People is that the film is supposed to be a mix of comedy and drama. Unfortunately, the mix is like oil and water with comedy attempting to engulf the first two acts, and drama taking over in the final act. Then, the comedy gets a bit tiring with the same brand of humor being repeated over and over again, by multiple characters. There are at least four comedians doing the same exact brand of crude humor, with the lone female comedienne (Aubrey Plaza) not delivering a single laugh from me. A bit of variety would be nice. If one comedian can combine multiple ways of making an audience laugh (George Carlin, Dave Chapelle) why can't five of them in one movie? Outside the comedy acts, Apatow didn't add much humor to the storyline, especially when compared to his other works.
Adam Sandler is a superb actor when he needs to be. But this is an example of the writing undermining the acting. Sandler does a grand job as George Simmons, but the role doesn't give him much of a chance to grow. Simmons is a prick pretty much throughout the entire movie, making it the second time Sandler portrays a character that's way too jerkish to sympathize for (Click being the second). Jonah Hill and Jason Schwartzman are two other examples of fine actors with little material and much room to be borderline-likable. The multitude of cameos, despite it being merely Apatow giving thanks to most that has helped and influenced him, helped the dramedy a little. The best cameos are that of Sarah Silverman and Eminem.
The infamous third act is where it all goes downhill. The third act is so pointless, you could have stretched the second act a little bit longer and ended it right there. Sadly though, this is where the epic fatigue is thrown in. Judd Apatow is a fine director, but whenever you work with family, it suffers just a bit. The shots and scenes concerning Apatow's family are longer, made with more attention, and made with more care. Leslie Mann's shots are at least five seconds longer than anyone else in the movie, and there is an extensive two-minute sequence involving one of the daughters singing in Cats. The kids and the husband could have been totally written off and the movie would not have been such a bore—and would not have to be 150 minutes.
Bottom Line: What happens with epic films is that they run too long, take too long to tell the story, develop a snobbish attitude, tests my patience, and undermines and forgets all the skills and qualities that made the director famous in the first place. With the exception of Saving Private Ryan by Steven Spielberg, all the movies listed in the first paragraph were whether disappointing or were far from being their best work. Funny People can be jumbled in; it was an epic massive dramedy that is much weaker in terms of writing, quality, and execution than 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and nearly every movie with Apatow's name.
One can only wonder how much better and more focused Funny People would be if family wasn't involved in the filming. One can only wonder how much better Funny People would have been if they had chopped 45 minutes of footage and limited the extensive and sometimes-pointless cameos. That's all we can do. Wonder.
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