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· 140 minutes
Directed by Judd Apatow
Written by Judd Apatow
· Adam Sandler
· Seth Rogen
· Jonah Hill
· Jason Schwartzman
· Leslie Mann
· Eric Bana
If there's one name that comes to mind when one thinks of comedy film directors/writers in the early 20th century, then that name is Judd Apatow. While he's only directed three films total counting this one, his writing and stars have been everywhere in the past couple of years, pretty much taking the comedic torch from Ben Stiller, Jim Carrey, and Adam Sandler and running with it.
His latest film, Funny People, is a bit of a departure from the goofyness of his last two films, though in my book it's not as jarring a transition as one might imagine, as his last film, Knocked Up, while being a comedy, had a bit of drama going into it as well, and this movie is in my book the next logical step with Apatow as a writer/director.
Adam Sandler stars as George Simmons, a mega successful comedian/movie star who finds out he has a rare blood disease and is dying. To help cope with his impending death he returns to his first love of stand up comedy, where he meets struggling comedian Ira Wright (Seth Rogen). George finds Ira's material, as well as his friend Leo's (Jonah Hill) material to be funny, and asks them to help write jokes for him. Ira doesn't mention this to Leo however, and takes the job himself so he can get out of working at Otto's Deli as his day job.
After an initial bit of awkwardness, George and Ira become friends, and then eventually George finds out that he's been cured from his disease. And it's at this point that the movie becomes a whole other movie all together. Into a story about George trying to win back the love of his life, played by Leslie Mann (Knocked Up) from her husband played by Eric Bana (Hulk, Munich).
Funny People is a somewhat of a departure for Apatow, in both writing and directing, as despite how funny this movie is it's more of a drama that's really freakin funny. It's also I think the longest movie he's ever done, I would argue it's a bit overlong, and some of the celebrity cameos could have been cut. Does anybody even know who Charles Fleischer is anymore? Sidebar: He was on Welcome Back Kotter in the '70s, and was the voice of the titular Roger Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, if you didn't know. Do we really need to see him? In that same token I will argue that the Eminem/Ray Romano scene was hilarious and could just be the funniest thing Ray Romano has ever done. Ever.
The first half of the movie is pure gold, and I loved every minute of it, the second half dragged on a bit, and I was lamenting the lack of Jonah Hill and Jason Schwartzman, who are hilarious in this film. Jonah Hill basically does the same shtick he always does, but it's hilarious. And Jason Schwartzman, well I just forgot how funny Jason Schwartzman could be. Here he plays Ira's roommate, a succesful actor on what could be the worst sitcom ever made, Yo, Teach.
This is truly one of Adam Sandler's best movies as well, showing he's come a long way from Billy Madison. I have to say it's a little weird to see Adam Sandler playing the 'old guy', but when I realize that I pretty much did grow up watching his films in high school, much as Seth Rogen did himself, he's of the old generation of comedy, and this is the new, this film kind of passing the torch that Apatow had already taken and run with for the past few years.
Seth Rogen did an outstanding job in this film as well, handling the dramatic moments just as much as the comedic ones, he's really grown as an actor as well in recent years, just great stuff. And I may have found a new Hollywood crush worthy actress in the form of Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation) who plays Daisy, a fellow stand up comic and love interest for Ira. Their whole relationship felt real and she was just an awesomely nerdy cute girl, the type I would actually talk to and end up with, despite how hot Megan Fox is, in reality this is the type of girl I go for. I hope we see more of her, and this type in future movies.
The music by Jason Schwartzman was one of the better scores I've heard in recent months, it's a very organic sound that fit the movie well, and the music choices by Jonathan Karp were superb as well, I loved Sandler's cover of The Beatles' 'Real Love', and the last scene of the movie, set in a supermarket, with The Bangles' Walk Like An Egyptian playing over the store speakers, it's much like real life, when the moments you remember most about your life don't always have the perfect soundtrack to go with it. Sometimes you will have a break up while the song Ice Ice Baby is playing on the radio. It's just one of those things.
I also really loved the cinematography of Janusz Kaminski (Indiana Jones 4) was art in and of itself, at times you could feel as you were either of the two main characters by the way the scene was shot, it was truly something to see.
I was surprised at first just how funny this movie was, all I've heard from everyone is that it's mostly a drama with comedic elements to it, but from what I saw the movie is as equal a comedy as it is a drama. It's like life, only with a ton of celebrity cameos. And there is a reason for all the cameos in my opinion. It shows how hollow Simmons's life is, all he has are Hollywood friends, and there are a lot in this movie. I was seriously though laughing pretty much the entire movie, one of the funniest movies I've seen this year after I Love You Man.
I liked how Apatow was able to work his wife and daughters into another one of his movies and have it work for the story and not just be a case of nepotism. His daughters have some pretty good acting chops for the young ages that they have, but I suspect it's probably also Apatow making up for giving them the worst names on the planet so they can go to school and not get laughed at. Seriously who names their daughters Maude and Iris in the 21st century?
Funny People is the most funny, real feeling movie that I've seen in quite some time, and it works, like the semi improvised dialogue in his films. It feels, and I hate when people use this term, but his movies really feel like people having normal conversations, like you'd have with your friends. And that's why you, or I at least go to these movies, because it's more a chance to catch up with my funny friends I haven't seen in a while. Just be forewarned that this time out you're with them for a long while. Which could be partially why some people don't like this movie.