Film Review: Funny People (15)By Kim Francis
September 02, 2009
It's been a while since Adam Sandler has had a critically-acclaimed hit despite an army of movie-going fans who lap up most of what he does.
However, after the widely-panned (by both critics and audiences) atrocity that was Bedtime Stories comes Funny People. This is a tragi-comedy from the pen of prolific comedy maestro Judd Apatow and it looks set to restore some of Sandler’s credibility.
Sandler is George Simmons, a popular stand-up comedian who has made a successful transition to movies. When he learns that he has an incurable blood disorder, he begins to reassess his life, which first takes him back to his stand-up comedy roots.
While performing in a club one night, he meets struggling up-and-coming comic Ira Wright (a slimmed down Seth Rogen) and is impressed with his jokes.
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Offering him a job as his personal assistant and writer, he forms a bond with the starstruck wannabe who sticks by his side. At the same time, George tries to come to terms with his imminent death and rectify the wrongs in his life.
So far so dour, but Apatow writes with a deftness of touch to ensure that this never becomes maudlin. Never one to shy away from a difficult topic, Apatow manages to strike the perfect balance between melancholy and humour, ultimately making this a laugh-out-loud and touching comedy to rival the likes of forerunners Knocked Up and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, albeit with a touch more tragedy than any of his previous fare.
A strong supporting cast that includes roly poly funnyman Jonah Hill and Wes Anderson favourite Jason Schwartzman as Ira’s housemates ensure that the laughs come thick and fast, even when George’s complex character plunges into despair, pulling the film away from tear-jerker territory.
There are also a number of cameos by figures from the world of US comedy that you may have fun spotting, although a curious skit involving Everybody Loves Raymond’s Ray Romano and rapper Eminem sits oddly within the film’s style of humour and its inclusion is questionable.
Eric Bana, however, as the husband of George’s former love Laura (Leslie Mann) is a laugh riot, with his broad Australian persona.
Who would have thought that the man who played a Star Trek villain, The Incredible Hulk, Hector and Chopper could be so funny?
Despite its two-and-a-half-hour length, Funny People remains absorbing.
As well as serving up a high proportion of laughter and a lesser degree of pathos, it also provides a scintillating insight into the world of comedy and the ways in which comedy writers operate.