Sunday, January 17, 2010

Movie review: Funny People

In Funny People, Adam Sandler plays against type (ha ha, just kidding), as George Simmons, a 40-something former standup comedian who has hit it really big with a string of dumb comedies but has lost touch with family and friends while doing so. When he develops a life-threatening blood disease, he is desperate to recapture his life, going back to the small comedy clubs where he got his start. But his current standup is very dark and not that funny, so he hires struggling young comic Ira Wright (Seth Rogen, not stretching very much here either) to write some new material for him and also to be his personal assistant. George gets some funny new jokes; Ira gets some life experiences hitherto unavailable to him; and both men get to be friends, sort of. Until George decides to reconnect with Laura, the one girl who got away, the one he’s always been in love with. The problem is, Laura (Leslie Mann) is married with two children and Ira has issues with this, even if George and Laura don’t seem to mind.

Is Funny People meant to be an ironic title? Because most of the main characters in here aren’t that funny. Ira isn’t very funny until he learns from George; George isn’t funny because his movies are exponentially stupid and his post-illness standup is too morbid; Laura isn’t funny even though she thinks she is. The supporting cast is actually stronger than the leads: Jason Schwartzman is fantastic as a vain sitcom actor, banging chicks left and right because he’s a little bit famous and “looks like Jackson Brown.” Eric Bana, as Laura’s Australian husband, is hilarious: I loved getting to hear his actual accent, which I’d never heard before, as well as watching him play broad and over the top as opposed to his smoldering Hollywood drama roles. Aubrey Plaza, from Parks and Recreation, is funny too, understated as a plain-Jane, Janeane Garofalo-esque standup comic on whom Ira has a crush. Also funny: the video clips of a young Adam Sandler, taped from his days as Judd Apatow’s roommate in real life.

But in general, Funny People is uneven, fully predictable and way too long at 146 minutes. The funny bits would be funnier if they weren’t buried under the length of the movie. Mr. Mouse started out watching with me but got restless several time, getting up to make dinner and then coming back, getting up to check his emails and then coming back again; he thought Knocked Up was too long and Funny People is seven minutes longer still.

Also: Judd Apatow needs to stop putting his daughters in his movies. They’re cute, Judd, but we’re over it. Run them through in a try-to-find-them Hitchcock-esque cameo if you must, but enough’s enough.

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