Judd Apatow, the comedic genius who’s basically controlled American film comedy for the past four years, follows his contemporary classic that is The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and the equally hilarious -if not more endearing- Knocked Up, with Funny People, a mistitled, confused mess.
Successful comedian George Simmons (one-time real-life Apatow roommate, Adam Sandler) falls ill with an evidently incurable bout of cancer. Lonely in his mansion and uncompromised fame, George recruits Ira (Seth Rogen), a struggling comedian, to be his assistant/joke writer.
So, that’s the movie, right? Funny man-child discovers himself via a deadly disease and learns the true meaning of friendship. Well, that’s the first hour. I’m not giving anything away by saying that George survives the cancer and then makes a sole goal to get back his ex-girlfriend of 12 years, who’s now married with children.
So, now we have a new film. Funny man-child tries to reclaim lost love but finds he’s actually more of an asshole than before. Such false plot lines fill the entire film. There’s a humorous scene when Ira makes an iTunes playlist for George. They laugh and mock the songs, but suddenly, a slow song comes on and the two stare at each other… are they going to cry? Hold each other? Make out? It’s never a good sign when you laugh through a scene that isn’t meant to be funny. But when such scenes are played with zero-to-no believability, it’s hard not to chuckle.
Don’t get me wrong, Sandler does good work here… at times. But overall his performance is misguided. If you’re expecting the kind of revelatory Sandler that was in Punch-Drunk Love, you’d better keep looking.
Funny People begins well enough, but quickly loses its stride and overall tone. There are a few spirited cameos, sure, (namely by a foul-mouthed Detroit rapper), but they can’t save the film. In fact, by the time the very talented Eric Bana and Leslie Mann (real-life Mrs. Apatow) show up for some third act silliness, the film is far past redemption. Sorry to say that Funny People just isn’t that, well… funny. C-