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Funny People (USA, 2009)

IMDB entry. (We watched the extended version on DVD, so I might refer to bits missing from the cinema cut.)

My affection for the works of Judd Apatow is well-known, so it pains me to say that this one is Not Great. However, I liked it a lot anyway. Your mileage may well vary.

Seth Rogen is a young comedian, starting out. Adam Sandler is an old comedian, jaded and terminally ill. There are two stories running here: young guy gets a break from old guy, and old guy tries to find a way to patch things up with his old flame.

This is mostly a dramatic film set within the world of comedy performers, and so it gets to have its cake with the funny stuff and eat it too with the serious stuff. Mostly that hangs together well, although there are one or two funny-but-real moments that don’t work at all, like Seth Rogen man-blubbing.

In fact, Rogen is a weak link throughout. And that’s the second thing that pains me to say, as my affection for Mr Rogen is also well-known, dating from his Freaks and Geeks days. He’s out of his depth here though, and although he’s game as anything and tries really hard the engine just doesn’t run for him here. Sandler is great, once again showing off the dramatic chops that mean “Best Actor Adam Sandler” is surprisingly likely to be a real event some time in the future. Leslie Mann in the part of the Director’s Wife is actually pretty damn good too.

Those two stories mentioned above? It’s clear throughout that they don’t fit in the same movie. An attempt to unify them with a climactic race-to-the-airport scene just falls completely flat. But I enjoyed this film anyway, because it felt almost painfully truthful now and then, and was really funny a bunch of times, and coming away from it I actually thought I understood what being a comedian might be like. (Plus, Eric Bana’s small role as the husband of the ex-girlfriend is marvellous, and I could watch Eminem yelling unwarranted insults at Ray Romano all day.)

So it’s even more of a big, rambling structural mess than Apatow’s other films, but it’s always watchable and sometimes even surprising. It’s not a classic for the ages, but its certainly not a failure. Watch it sometime, if only for the glimpses into comedy behind-the-scenes.

{ 3 } Comments

  1. Pearce | May 17, 2010 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    “Leslie Mann in the part of the Director’s Wife is actually pretty damn good too.”

    So is this yet another Apatow movie where the women are characterised by how they relate to the boys?

  2. morgue | May 17, 2010 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    In his defence, there aren’t as many women in it as previous Apatow films.

    (Wait, is that a defence?)

  3. Gator | May 17, 2010 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    You forgot to mention how LONG this movie is. Although the gag with the popsickles is really good….