In Review: Funny People

Funny People
Directed by Judd Apatow
Starring: Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann
Rating: 6.5/10

As unfortunate as it may be, your expectations before you go into a film can play a huge part on your final feelings towards that particular film. I was met with such a predicament this week, when I took on an opening night screening of Judd Apatow’s third feature, Funny People.

Before this movie was released, there were a number of separate, yet equally specific thoughts that I had about it. For one thing, the subject matter was something that I was seriously connected with. The film concerns numerous comedians aspiring to be professional stand-ups and writers and movie stars and, in an ideal world, I would no doubt be attempting to do the same thing. So, right off the bat, I was expecting inspiration out of this movie.

Another preconception I had about the flick was that up until this point, I hadn’t been in love with anything Judd Apatow had ever done. I felt that The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up demonstrated some real laughs but I simply couldn’t adore either movie above the level of “okay”. However, like I said, there was definitely something to be taken from each of those movies, so there I went, just hoping that third time was the charm. Finally, I was convinced. Funny People was going to make me see what Apatow was all about.

The minute the movie ended, I knew, that I set myself up for disappointment. Funny People was, once again, just okay.

It was a shame too, as the first act of the film was as close to gold as I have ever seen Apatow come.

The plot of funny people concerns a very Adam Sandler-like comedian named George Simmons (played, of course, by Sandler) who was able to rise from anonymity and become one of the biggest box-office draws in Hollywood. After contracting a very rare form of leukemia, he begins to have second thoughts about how he has spent his life, and begins to reconsider everything that he has been living with.

One of his major decisions is to go back to live stand up, and after seeing a promising young talent (Seth Rogen) following him up after a gig he hires him to write some new material. From here, a rocky friendship emerges between the two while Simmons tries to rekindle his old flame that he wrecked his chances with years before (played by Apatow’s real life wife, Leslie Mann). There’s comedy, there’s drama, and my god, there’s a bunch of spare time in between.
I feel as though that was a huge aspect of my disappointment, being the length of the film. Going into it, I was well aware of the concerns across the tabloids that the film needed to shave some time from its hefty two hour twenty minute run-time. After sitting through it, there is some definite dragging taking place.

The length of the film ended up affecting the whole pace of the movie for me. It felt as though there were two movies to be taken in. You have the beginning, which is fantastically done, a real eye opening look into the raw life of both the star (Sandler) and the wannabe (Rogen). The second half however, just slows everything before to a saunter.

Any inspiration that was to be gained within the first half of the movie is basically lost. I just didn’t think that the lost love storyline meshed well with everything Apatow put forth in the first hour. I simply cannot help but feel that some more strategic editing could have made me love Funny People.

So despite the undeniable dragging that the movie deals with, there are some genuinely hilarious moments mixed amongst a handful of pretty solid heart jerking scenes. Jonah Hill and Jason Schwartzman play Rogen’s more industry successful roommates and definitely provide most of the bigger laughs throughout. The most hysterical moment though comes from a brilliant cameo (one of many) that makes complete sense for the Apatow Universe. I can’t believe I didn’t see it coming.

What was also remarkable about the movie is that Adam Sandler once again shows some signs of life. He gives a very even performance, reminding us all that the guy has both dramatic talent and his comedic elegance has definitely not abandoned him. Unfortunately, I found Rogen to be only tolerable, and not much more. He was funny, but his co-stars definitely stole a lot of the scenes he was in.

The appearance of the standard “intelligent-toilet” humor/improv commonly found in the Apatow films is there as well, working at some points, but falling flat at others. It’s too bad that on set you cannot judge how far is too far for a particular moment.

There’s not much else that I can say about the movie, except that I probably shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up too high before I went into the theatre. I feel as though that would have saved me a lot of the anguish that I feel right now. I’m sure as the days pass I’ll come to accept it for what kind of movie it is, but I wish it would have just a little bit better than it was.

That’s just me though.