Rating: R and Unrated
Directed by Judd Apatow
“Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen and Leslie Mann star in this seriously funny film from writer-director Judd Apatow (‘The 40-Year-Old Virgin’ and ‘Knocked Up’). When famous comedian George Simmons (Sandler) is given a second chance at a new beginning, he and his assistant, a struggling comedian, Ira (Rogen), return to the places and people that matter most – including the stand-up spots that gave him his start and the girl that got away (Mann).”
“Funny People” is rated R for language and crude sexual humor throughout, and some sexuality.
One of the first problems with “Funny People” is that it just isn’t all that funny. A significant portion of the story features the various characters doing stand-up comedy. Unfortunately, the jokes just didn’t make me laugh. There are only so many blow job jokes you can listen to before you have to say, “You got anything else?” The characters almost exclusively use sex jokes for their routines and it gets old fast. When they aren’t doing stand-up routines, they’re just living everyday life and that offers few jokes worth laughing at.
The second problem with “Funny People” is that it is way too long. It is about two and a half hours in running time and it certainly feels like it. The first third of the movie is about Ira struggling with his career and then becoming friends with George. The second third of the movie is about George dealing with his illness and meeting with his celebrity friends. The final third of the film is about George trying to reclaim his old flame despite her being married and having a family. I think all of it is essential to the plot, but Apatow needed to tighten up the pacing a bit. This movie should have been more like an hour 45 minutes long rather than nearly three. It also seems to waver between focusing on Ira and George. I think choosing one or the other would have shortened it up significantly.
The final problem is that the trailer showed the entire movie and all of the funniest jokes. If you saw it, you knew that Ira and George became friends, George had cancer, was cured, then went after the married old flame. That’s the whole story. Scenes from the final 10 minutes of the movie were in that trailer. You also saw the jokes with the European doctor, the jokes about Mark’s uncle going to hell, etc. After that, there’s not that much that really generates laugh out loud moments. So if you saw the trailer, you’ve been significantly spoiled.
On the positive side, “Funny People” has a really strong cast. Adam Sandler shows he can handle both the serious moments and the funny moments. Seth Rogen shows he can hold his own with more established comedy stars. Eric Bana really shines as the Australian husband of Laura who wears his heart on his sleeve. Leslie Mann is also funny as Laura, George’s old flame. (It’s fun to see clips of her previous work in the movie including an old Coca Cola commercial featuring her and “King Kong.”) Mann and Apatow’s daughters also steal the show when they’re featured in a few scenes. Throw in fun moments with Jonah Hill, Jason Schwartzman, Aubrey Plaza, Aziz Ansari as well as cameos by Paul Reiser, Ray Romano, Norm MacDonald, Eminem, and a variety of comedians and you end up with a really fun cast.
I’ll also add that I really enjoyed the music in the film. James Taylor makes a good cameo while Sandler does a good rendition of “Real Love.” Jason Schwartzman and Michael Andrews provide music for the rest of the movie, too.
“Funny People” also has a pretty good message at its heart. We see George learn what’s most important in life when he’s given a second chance. We also see him denied when he attempts to break up Laura’s marriage for his own selfish gain. Ira is almost the angel on his shoulder telling George not do it. Overall, it’s a good life lesson.
I think if people dial back their expectations and realize that this isn’t like the other Apatow films, they might enjoy it more than I did. And if you prepare yourself for the epic length of the movie, you’ll enjoy it more, too.
The bonus features are almost overwhelming in number. The alternate and extended scenes are over an hour in length. The deleted scenes are over 45 minutes alone. Combine the two and you have enough extra footage for another whole movie. Maybe this should have been a miniseries rather than a theatrical film! Also included is a lot of vintage footage of Rogen, Apatow, and Sandler doing standup routines on the Letterman Show, Dennis Miller, and other TV shows. Rogen is actually seen at age 13 before his voice changed! Footage of Sandler making prank phone calls is also included. There are also mockumentaries featuring Aziz Ansari as Randy and his comic routine and Jason Schwartzman as Mark Taylor Jackson on “Yo Teach!” Several three-minute scenes from the fake series “Yo Teach!” are also included, as well as scenes from George’s movies “Merman,” “Re-Do,” and more. Throw in featurettes on James Taylor’s concert from the movie, an hour-long appearance by Apatow and Sandler on Charlie Rose, a featurette on Apatow’s daughters in the movie, deleted moments from George’s sex scenes, alternate lines from dialogue recording, and more and you see why “overwhelming” is an appropriate description for the Blu-ray bonus features.