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Thoughts on 'Funny People' . . .

Posted by 2 Dollar Productions Monday, August 10, 2009

Worth Full-Price, Matinee or Rental: Matinee or rental. 'Funny People' is sporadically funny though far enough away from a traditional Judd Apatow comedy that it should be viewed during an afternoon theater trip or possibly by waiting for DVD as it won't suffer much at all in the transition to the small screen.

Will I Own It On DVD: No. I might watch it one more time (or at least parts of it), but that doesn't justify spending money to buy it.

1) 'Funny People' is a movie that happens when a writer/director (Apatow) decides that he wants to explore deeper concepts from his first few projects ('40 Year Old Virgin, 'Knocked Up'), and the studio agrees due to the overhwhelming success of those earlier efforts. The results in 'Funny People' are uneven - although still largely enjoyable - and it's the juxtaposition of the heavy subject matter (serious illness) alongside the standard dick jokes of the Apatow genre that push this film to nearly 2 1/2 hours, a running time that is utterly ridiculous and more than a bit self-indulgent.

2) That being said, I don't begrudge Apatow for wanting to add more depth to his movies, and he does a fair job in 'Funny People.' The plot concerns a comedy star (Adam Sandler) who learns he has a serious blood disease which might kill him. Sandler's character came from the world of stand-up comedy, and when he starts to examine his life after the diagnosis, he returns to the stage and hires a young, hungry comedian (Seth Rogen) to help him write jokes and act as his personal assistant. Together, they bond over the process of making people laugh as Sandler attempts to fight his illness and possibly re-connect with the love of his life (Leslie Mann) who got away.

3) I'm not a big Adam Sandler fan. Outside of 'Happy Gilmore' and 'Punch-Drunk Love' and maybe 'The Wedding Singer' on a lazy Sunday afternoon, I could do without him. I certainly don't think he's a comic genius like some people do. But he's very solid in 'Funny People' as manages to capture the self-absorption of a major movie star yet couple it with enough self awareness and humor to make him palatable to the audience. He holds the film together with a serious boost from a talented supporting cast of familiar Apatow players.

4) Apatow regulars Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann and Jonah Hill all give Sandler excellent support, although Rogen does look a little strange having lost significant amounts of weight, a condition that other characters in the movie comment on as well. In addition, Jason Schartzmann and Eric Bana both prove to be good additions to the ensemble cast, especially Bana who seems to be having a fun time playing a comedic role for a change.

5) As much as anything, ‘Funny People’ is about the world of stand-up comedy. This was one of the more interesting parts for me as Apatow came from that world, and he nails the dynamics by showing the camaraderie and the competition, the boasting and the insecurity and the quest of everyone to find something that is funny above all else.

Overall, ‘Funny People’ is not a complete misfire, nor is it a rousing success. Instead, it falls somewhere in the middle as it’s far from a waste of time thanks to solid performances and writing, however, it’s also not quite good enough to demand 2 ½ hours either.



  1. JLee Says:
  2. I thought about this one and decided it might make me sad, despite the comedy parts.
    Jason Schartzmann always seems to crack me up in movies these days...

    Saw "500 Days of Summer" this weekend was pretty good.

  3. Heff Says:
  4. Your review is pretty much spot on with what I've heard about this movie elsewhere . I'll probably pass on this one altogether.

  5. Jlee - Probably a good idea - 'Summer' was better. That being said, 'Funny People' doesn't wallow in grim depression like you (and I) feared, so it's probably safe too at some point. :)

    Heff - Yeah, I started reading some reviews after I wrote this, and figured a lot would line up that way based on teh material and execution. It might (might) be OK on DISH for you sometime, but there's not real need to seek it out.

  6. BostonPobble Says:
  7. I have an irrational loathing of Adam Sandler and cannot imagine being able to watch one of his movies. To the point that I might be willing to see this one if it starred anyone else simply to see where Apatow might be going. As is...I'll wait until Apatow's next pseudo-serious and check that one out.

  8. Boxer Says:
  9. I was hoping you'd review this one and save me some time and money. I'm going to watch this one at home. I agree with pretty much everything you said. I took an 81 year old to see "The Hangover" (my second time) and we were both laughing out loud. NOW that's some funny people. Aptow? Not so much.

  10. Bostonpobble - I don't know if that's completely irrational as I had a strong dislike for many, many years myself. Ha. To that end, Sandler is mostly OK in this one, so it might be worth a rental someday (especially if you're killing time in some city you don't care much about. :)).

    Boxer - That's a pretty funny picture of you and your 81-year-old friend at the movies. I also saw 'The Hangover' twice (second time with my wife), and it did indeed hold up well (better than I thought it might). As for 'Funny People,' I think it will make a better rental than theater experience. It's solid, but not spectacular.

  11. kmwthay Says:
  12. I am thinking this one is a pass for me, unitl it comes out dvd. Adam Sandler is always a hit or miss for me. It's better that I not spend theater money for it to be a miss. The previews that they showed of some of the "funny" parts, well, I didn't think they were funny at all.

    Happy Monday?

  13. Linda Says:
  14. The title of this film sets itself up for failure. That, and the cast, makes everyone think it will be a laugh riot.I do agree with you on the inside look to the stand-up world. The box office success of this will ride on Sandler and Rogan's popularity.Good review.

  15. Miss Ash Says:
  16. 2 1/2 hours....F-that!

    I'll watch Gone with the Wind or Fiddler on the Roof even though they're long but not some new crappy movie.

  17. I'll watch this one, but will probably wait for it to come out on DVD. A movie has to look really good for me to want to see it in the theater these days since I'm on the verge of unemployment.

  18. Farzan Says:
  19. Awesome thoughts man, you practically nailed what I was thinking when I saw it. It certainly wasn't a bad film nor was it amazing. I think if they cut 20 Min's off the second half and did some last minute editing, it would have been as great as Knocked Up. Ill still pick up the Blu Ray when it comes out since I own 40 Year Old and Knocked Up.

  20. KayDee Says:
  21. It was interesting that you should comment on Eric Bana seemingly having fun in a comedic role. He was a stand up comedian in Australia long before he became an actor and was in most of our comedy shows. He's quite brilliant actually.

  22. TROLL Y2K Says:
  23. You didn't like "The Water Boy" ?

  24. Kmwthay - I think you're 100% right with your entire comment - wait for a rental and I think you'll enjoy it more (and Sandler is more of a hit in this one as he's toned down and not acting like an overgrown little boy).

    Linda - Excellent point about the title as it is certainly misleading. And this one dropped majorly in the 2nd weekend, so I doubt it will be do much better than breaking even, which might even be somewhat of a struggle. It shouldn't have cost $75 million to make this one (I think I read that was the price tag).

    Miss Ash - Some movies (not many) can justify that running time. This one wasn't one of them. So, rent away. Ha.

    Native Minnow - Yeah, I would recommend waiting on this one as it will be an even better rental than it is now (thanks to reduced expectations). I hope the job front solidifies for you as it's ugly out there right now as there seems to be quicksand under my own feet too.

    Farzan - Thanks, and you're right about the editing and they needed to lose between 20 - 25 minutes for a much tighter, better product. Stick the rest in on the uncut DVD if you want to . . . I have 40 & Knocked on DVD, so I understand wanting to round out the trifecta.

    KayDee - I just read that recently too. Thanks for the knowledge as he seems like such a serious actor, and its nice to be able to mix it up a little too (unlike Christian Bale for instance).

    Troll Y2K - Sort of. There were parts (and Kathy Bates was funny), but I've never felt the need to see it again. Should have known the Swamp Country would intrest you. Ha.


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