Movie and Film Reviews (MFR) Comedy,Drama Rated: Funny People (2009)

Rated: Funny People (2009)

The advertisements for Funny People want to make sure you know this movie is from producer/director Judd Apatow, the same guy who directed the comedies 40 Year Old Virgin (2005) and Knocked Up (2007), and produced comedies such as Pineapple Express (2008) and Superbad (2007). The ads further promote this film by showing you some of the funniest parts of this movie. The point is, that the studio big wigs want you to think this is the same type of balls-out hysteria as other movies involving Apetow, and because all those films were generally accepted as good, this one is good too.

Really, though, this movie is NOT that type of movie. Sure, there are pleanty of lude comical moments, profanity-laden dialogue, and akward skwirm-in-your-seat moments of embarassment that we come to expect from Apetow’s movies. But mostly, all of that type of comedy takes place in the first act. See, they paint a picture of Apetow’s seemingly untarnished resume (especially to males in the age group of 17-25), but in reality he has his fair share of flops. He’s had his say on films such as Kicking and Screaming (2005) , Drillbit Taylor (2008), Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007), and Step Brothers (2008). My point is, I personally think he is getting tired of making these comedies based on witty Kevin Smith-like exchanges between characters. I’m not saying that none of his other movies had nothing to say, but Funny People feels like two completely different movies (a la Hancock….) fighting eachother for the audiences’ attention.

Synopsis: George Simmons is a comedian with a reputation for taking easy money doing gimmick-laden films and taking advantage of his fame. When he is diagnosed with a terminal illness, he begins thinking about how people will remember him, and looking back at his life notices that no one really cares about him. Angry that his life means nothing to him or anyone else, he decides to start doing stand-up comedy again. While doing stand up comedy, he meets Ira Wright, who is a man questioning his own life. Ira, by his own regard, lives a pathetic life. He lives with his roomates Leo and Mark, and is much less successful than either of them. George Simmons recognizes Ira’s struggles and offers him a job as his assistant, to write jokes, but more importantly to have someone that he can pick on to feel less insecure about his own life. Eventually we meet Laura, who was George’s former fiance. Now married with children, Laura’s life is the one that George wishes he could have had. When Laura learns that George is dying she confesses that she has loved him all along and that her life is not as great as it would seem, she would rather have the life George has now(, fame). The remainder of the film (without giving anything away…) involves George and Laura trying to both figure out what they want and Ira is stuck in the middle, knowing that what they both want isn’t beneficial to either of them. Ira is then struck with a choice, should he interfere with what is going on and risk his relationship with George (and thus his ticket to becoming a famous comedian), or do nothing and live with the guilt that he could have stopped whatever problems would later occur.

Acting: Through its faults, this movie is Adam Sandler’s (The Waterboy)  movie. He does a pretty good job playing George Simmons, but I am still not convinced that he can carry an entire movie based around serious emotions. Perhaps its the fact that we’ve seen him do so many stupid things that we as the audience can’t really take him seriously even when he is trying to be serious. I found it ironic that this is almost the exact conflict going on in the movie, but whether this is just coincidence or a jab at Adam Sandler I am not sure. Seth Rogen (Knocked Up) plays Ira, and I’m sure he will be the biggest draw to the movie. He pretty much acts the same way as in all his other movies, but I find it refreshing that when his chracter is confronted with moral dilemas in this film that Rogen in belivable in his actions.  Jason Schwartzman (Rushmore) and Jonah Hill (Superbad) play Ira’s roomates, Mark and Leo. Mainly they are in this movie for comic relief, and as such play their roles well. Leslie Mann (Big Daddy) plays Laura, and honestly I am not much of a fan of her. I think she can be annoying and none of the characters I’ve seen her in ever seem sincere. It’s more of a problem here because I can’t tell if her character is being manipulative or not when she agrees to come see George because he is dying. Besides numerous entertaining cameos (I think the most I’ve ever seen in a movie…), Eric Bana plays Laura’s emotionally connected husband. This is the only comedic roll I’ve ever seen him play, and it was hilarious.(20/25)

Script/Plot; Although the script/dialogue is funny in parts, sincere in others it is the plot that is the biggest problem. I have a feeling that Adam Sandler had a say on a few things here and there. As a result there are some attempts at getting the audience to laugh at the expense of goofy faces or funny accents…things we’ve seen before in other Sandler flicks. To me, this kind of comedy is a few levels below Apetow’s chracter’s trademark witty remarks and not-so-witty actions. As a result the movie seems a little childish at times, especially in contrast to some of the heavily emotional moments (something that plagued Sandler’s own Click). The plot, though, is most bizarre. The movie opens focusing on one set of characters (Ira and his friends) and then ends with the focus being on George, Laura, and her husband. As a result the movie feels like two movies jammed together, the beginning of a typical Apetow fair and the end of some dark romantic comedy. As a result, the film feels long, and the audience stops caring about some of the characters half way through. What’s the point in watching if you don’t really care what happens? I will say, though, that the end is classic Apetow and fairly satisfying. (17/25)

Direction: Apetow does know how to direct though. This one seems more colorful, creative in camera movements, and in lighting than I remember Knocked Up ever being. I think its just another sign that Apetow wants to be taken seriously by his peers and not remembered simply for making movies that appeal mostly to college-age people. (22/25)

Music/Editing/X-Factor: Some of the editing seemed disjaunted to me. There are a few montage-like segments that would have been more successful at other times. For instance, George claims that he had never seen his father laugh , which was why he wanted to become a comedian. At least 20 minutes pass before a montage occurs where George is talking with various people and we see his father chuckle at him. It feels like it was randomly thrown in there just for a gimmicky emotional scene because no where else in the movie is this mentioned and never before or again does the audience see George’s parents. Its never established if George cares about his own family or if he just let work get in the way…perhaps more of the film was edited out explaining this. If that was the case why leave the film incomplete in character development? Music helped create the tone well and never distracted. (17/25) 

The Verdict:

What Kept Me Watching It: The film is hilarious in parts, has interesting characters finding themselves in interesting situations, and has a genuinely palatable ending.

What Killed It: Those expecting the usual qualities from an Apetow film like Superbad will be dissapointed; most of the characters are difficult to relate to, the story is disjointed, and the comedy can be low brow at times.

Summary: A battle between Apetow’s attempts at doing something different and the audience wanting more of the same from him.

Final Rating: (76/100) C

1 thought on “Rated: Funny People (2009)”

  1. Though I liked Funny People a lot, it was very wrongfully advertised. This was by no means a comedy. Yes, there were comics in it and short stand up scenes but for the most part this was a sad film.
    There were definitely moments of comic relief but I found myself tearing up more than giggling.

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