Dave and Rachel's movie reviews.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Funny People

Year: 2009
Running time: 146 minutes
Certificate: 15
Language: English
Screenplay: Judd Apatow
Director: Judd Apatow
Starring: Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann, Eric Bana, Jonah Hill, Jason Schwartzman, Aubrey Plaza

Sandler could always crack Rogen up with a well-timed
dick joke.
Judd Apatow has established a hugely successful career writing and producing smash hit comedies that at first glance can appear to be fairly standard lowest common denominator stuff, but, given a chance turn out to have more substance than expected. Funny People is different, in that it is clear from the start that this is a drama about comedians. This makes it more complex and better written than Apatow's previous efforts, and makes the comedy somehow seem funnier. It's a drama set in the world of comedy and comedians, making the jokes feel more natural; the point isn't to be funny, the jokes are just part of the world in which the story is set.

Apatow regular Seth Rogen is Ira Wright, a stand up comedian struggling to make a name for himself. Adam Sandler, in one of those rare roles that doesn’t make me want to puke (it might actually be his career-high), is George Simmons, an ex-stand up turned successful film star (he's a mutant mix of Sandler's real-life career-path with added Rob Schneider) diagnosed with cancer. In an attempt to recapture how it felt to be young, happy, in love, and brimming with potential, he decides to return to his stand up roots and meets Ira. On a whim, Simmons offers him a job writing material for him, and an unlikely friendship slowly develops.

Nobody could understand why the dick jokes had no effect
on Bana.
George also makes the (possibly ill-advised, possibly not) decision to get back in contact with the woman he used to be in love with, Laura (Leslie Mann), because she is the person he was most honestly able to share his feelings with. The problem is, Laura is now married to the rather unlikable Clarke (Eric Bana). In preparation for the roles, Apatow had the cast write their own stand up material and deliver it in comedy clubs, giving them a taste of how difficult life as a stand up comedian can be. It shows, as everyone convinces when on stage, delivering decent material with good timing. In particular, Rogen delivers fine routines, genuinely funny.

It’s too long, and could have done with losing a few scenes to stop me checking my watch in the last third, although Ira's ill-judged dash for the airport is a great scene which helps to pick the film up just as it’s beginning to drag. The thing about clich├ęs is, you just need to know how to handle them, and Apatow's handling of the airport dash as well as the garden-set man-tussle make potentially groan-worthy scenes work a treat.

Not amazing, but certainly not a bad way to pass a couple-and-a-bit hours.

Score: 7/10

Funny People is generally considered an Apatow high-water mark - see these reviews by the much-missed Roger Ebert and Mark at Empire.