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By Gus Bode

‘Funny People’

Rated: R

Starring: Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann


Directed by: Judd Apatow

Runtime: 146 min.

Rating: A-

Creating the perfect, or even just solid trailer to predate a film’s release has to be an incredibly difficult task.

Attempting to encapsulate an hours-long piece of work into two minutes sounds nearly impossible, especially for a film like Judd Apatow’s ‘Funny People.’

At face value, the film views like a splendid mess.

The film is split in to three segments and runs for two and a half hours, but it rarely drags and provides laughs throughout.


Laughs are not exactly what Apatow is aiming for here though. It is his portrait of a celebrity and the pitfalls and uneasiness sometimes accompanied with their lifestyle.

The film follows mega-star comedian George Simmons (Adam Sandler) as he learns that he has contracted a terminal blood disease. Simmons, who has no real friends or close family, takes a young comic, Ira (Seth Rogen), on as his assistant. Ira runs errands, writes jokes and talks Simmons to sleep. Ira is there for George to have someone to vent his frustrations to and dump the emotional baggage of an unhappy life on.

The relationship is the best one in the film. It is Rogen’s most solid acting to date and just might be Sandler’s greatest role as well. Rogen is extremely nervous and generally unhappy even when becoming Sandler’s assistant; it is a side of Rogen audiences have not previously seen from the actor. Sandler’s portrayal of this celebrity with such a loose grip on life-just skating by through various women and paycheck movies-is heartbreaking. Watching his performance, one has to wonder how much of this comes from his own life, as his style of comedy is lampooned throughout.

When Sandler and Rogen engage in serious discussions about their relationship and the illness, there is a real sense of awkwardness and dread in the performances. The apprehension to speak what is on their characters’ minds, the stuttering of words and the long pauses are all genuine signifiers that pop up when emotionally distant men attempt an emotion-ridden conversation.

Since the illness plot point is discussed in the trailers there should not be anything spoilerish about its inclusion here. Simmons eventually learns the experimental medication his doctor (Torsten Voges, stealing scenes each time he shows up) has put him on has sent his disease into remission.

In most any formulaic near-death experience film, a clean bill of health would have the central character elated. He would be kissing strangers, sliding down banisters, giving stray pets homes … happy stuff.

But Apatow goes an opposite route, pushing the film into one of its main themes: success does not always equal happiness.

When Simmons learns of his new lease on life, he digs up his one true love, Laura (Leslie Mann). Laura and Simmons were to be married but his inability to remain monogamous sent Laura off. He reconnects with Laura during a weekend visit, with Ira, to her house while her husband Clark (Eric Bana) is away on business. Nostalgia kicks in as the two are smitten with each other. Simmons and Ira play with her daughters, as if they were in fact a family.

All of the reconnecting and Laura’s struggling marriage come to a head with Clark’s return home.

The end will not be given away, but Apatow does not go for the straight Hollywood smiling wrap-up here.

Just as Sandler and Rogen anchor the film, the side characters are spectacular as well. Jason Schwartzman and Jonah Hill play Rogen’s ultra-competitive roommates. The three are always breaking each other down, but ultimately they are there for each other as well. Schwartzman plays the super jackass to perfection.

Aubrey Plaza shows up as Rogen’s love interest and is so disaffected and dry it is off-putting at first. Eventually her humor settles in, as she becomes another essential cog in this sullen comedic world Apatow has created.

There are also numerous, short cameos throughout the film. A couple of them are absolutely sidesplitting and from celebrities one might not expect.

‘Funny People’ is the film Judd Apatow has been inching closer to with his first two directorial efforts. While it is not without its flaws (albeit minor) it is his best film and hints at greatness to come.

Luke McCormick can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 275