Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Writer/director Judd Apatow had made a name for himself (as well as a lot of money) with raunchy-but-sweet comedies such as The 40-year-old Virgin and Knocked Up.
Well, Apatow has penned another film and is back in the director's chair. And, once again, Seth Rogen has a starring role. But this time Apatow has brought in Adam Sandler as the main attraction.
Are you ready to laugh till it hurts?
Sorry, you are going to be disappointed.
Apatow's new film, Funny People, is nothing like his previous movies.
Apatow veered off in a new direction seeking to make a serious film about stand-up comedians.
While the movie has a few interesting and poignant moments, as well as a couple of very humorous exchanges, it's mostly self-indulgent blather.
Apatow needed a good editor. The movie prattles on far too long -- more than two and a half hours. I found myself getting antsy 55 minutes into the film. Unfortunately, the pace didn't pick up.
I'm certain that stand up comedians (and aspiring stand up comedians) absolutely loved this film. It delves deeply into their weird lives and their even stranger outlooks on life.
This is why a dozen famous comedians -- Andy Dick, Paul Resier, Norm MacDonald, Carol Leifer, Sarah Silverman, Ray Romano -- make cameo appearances as themselves. It was an opportunity to pay homage to their craft (and themselves).
The film centers on Sandler's character, George Simmons, who is at the top of the comedy world. He is as rich as he is famous. But he is not happy. His shallow, hedonistic life has made him a bitter jerk. Yes, he's funny, but he's a jerk.
When George finds out he has a rare form of leukemia he heads home -- to a comedy club. His performance there is more dark than funny.
Following George on stage is Ira Wright (Rogen), who makes a few jokes about George and his weird performance. George. although maybe a little hurt, kind of likes what he saw and offers Ira a job writing jokes.
As George struggles with his rare disease and faces death, he seeks to be a better person. It's a slow and painful process -- for us and for George.
If you want to see Sandler give a serious dramatic performance, he's done much better in the past. He was outstanding, for example, in Punch-Drunk Love.
Now, to be fair, I didn't hate every moment of this movie. Mostly I was frustrated. I saw a lot of potential that was never realized. The best moments mostly withered away as the film dragged on and on.
Sandler and Rogen do give strong performances and make this movie tolerable. That, however, is not reason enough to see this film.