Funny People (2009)






THE SCOOP
Director:  Judd Apatow
Cast:  
Adam SandlerSeth RogenLeslie Mann, Eric Bana, Jason Schwartzman, Jonah Hill

Plot:  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.

Genre:  Comedy / Drama
Awards:  -
Runtime:  146min
Rating:  M18 for language and crude sexual humor throughout, and some sexuality. 


IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: NO)
In one of my previous reviews (can’t remember which), I said that Judd Apatow is one of this decade’s most influential Hollywood filmmakers. But after watching Funny People, I have some reservations about reiterating that statement here. 

Following his sensational first two hits, The 40-Year Old Virgin (2005) and Knocked Up (2007), Apatow has produced as well as inspired many more popular ‘adult comedies’ and ‘bro-mance comedies’ such as Forgetting Sarah Marhsall (2008), Superbad (2007), and I Love You, Man (2009). However, the anticipated release of Funny People seems to suggest that Apatow has lost his Midas touch. 

Funny People brings funnymen Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen together in the film’s two leading roles as George Simmons and Ira Wright respectively, with a decent supporting cast including Leslie Mann, Eric Bana, Jason Schwartzman, and Jonah Hill. 


Unfortunately, the result is less than flattering. Sandler and Rogen have not-so-interesting characters and do not seem to click well. In fact, the supporting cast outshines the leads for most parts and this creates an uneven balance because even though the focal point of the film lies in the telling of George’s story, viewers tend to be more engaged by the sub-plots involving the supporting roles. 

Worse, this imbalance even extends to the tonal quality of the film. It seems like Apatow suddenly lost his ability to delicately mix heartfelt drama and crude comedy in a potent formula which he so successfully perfected in Knocked Up


In Funny People, it is neither downright hilarious nor does it heavily tug our heartstrings. When the film finally ends after a mostly drab two-and-a-half hours, there is almost nothing to feel except that of disappointment. 

Most of the genuine chuckles come sporadically from movie references such as Die Hard and James Bond which fans would enjoy. But most of the other jokes fall flat; when Apatow writes something that goes “F*** Facebook in the face!” and intends it to be uproariously funny, you know the film is going to be a struggle to sit through. 


The story also meanders like a tepid river; there is no clear indication as to where the narrative is heading to. Is this a story about George and his new friendship with Ira? Or is it about him revisiting and renewing his troubled relationship with Laura (Mann), the love of his life? 

Funny People features some good song selections which are somewhat of a consolation. Apatow, to his credit, knows how to accentuate his scenes with aural accompaniment. There are moments in the film when one might feel that something of promise may develop, that Apatow, for all the flaws of his film, could just maybe pull out half a rabbit from his hat. 


Alas, there is none. Funny People is a setback for Apatow, and although some critics find it to be his most mature work to date, I cannot help but hope that he finds his magic wand back real soon. 

GRADE: C (6/10 or 2.5 stars)





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