*** out of ****
Funny People marks the long-awaited return of Judd Apatow to the director's chair, for yet another outrageous and crude comedy for both sexes. For this one, Adam Sandler heads the impressive cast as what must be one of his most difficult and personal characters to date. Sandler plays George Simmons, clearly a fictional version of himself, a stand-up comedian who became very rich and famous doing a string of unfunny movies. In public he is constantly being recognized and having his picture taken. His house is filled with posters of fake films that look eerily real. The film also takes advantage of old home movies of Sandler, using them to represent George's past, blurring the line between reality and fiction. Early in the film he learns from his doctor that he has a rare inoperable blood disease and starts on a large dosage of experimental medications. Apatow regular Seth Rogen plays Ira, a young newly-fit comedian that happens to be performing in the same comedy club that Simmons is at one night. Simmons bombs, and Ira swoops in and steals the crowd by making fun of the defamed star. Simmons contacts Ira and asks him to be his assistant and write jokes for him. Ira says yes and is swept up into the life of stardom almost immediately. At first he is a starstruck yes man doing whatever odd job George tells him to do. But soon he recognizes Simmons as the lost soul he is, a man whose life has been ruined by celebrity, quick to anger and selfish. George tells Ira he is dying, placing this enormous burden on his back. After some pushing from Ira, he decides to tell some friends, including ex-flame Laura, played by Apatow's real-life wife Leslie Mann. Later in the movie, the doctors tell George the medication might have actually worked and he may not be dying after all, and he rekindles his love for Laura. Him and Ira drive up to her family's house for an extended stay, but it becomes complicated when her husband Clarke arrives home early.
The very funny Jonah Hill plays Ira's roommate Leo, a competitive comedian who is making more money than him. Jason Schwartzman (who also contributed to the dull musical score) plays the third roommate Mark who recently found fame by landing the lead in a television sitcom. Eric Bana is fearless as Clarke, bringing his native Australian accent to the role and ending up being one of the most memorable parts of the movie. Apatow's real-life daughters Maude and Iris charm the audience as Clarke and Laura's kids. Several famous people have cameos as themselves, including Andy Dick, Norm McDonald, Sarah Silverman, Eminem, and my personal favorite, Ray Romano.
The film is everything you'd expect from Apatow: filled with crude insights on modern issues, but with a heart underneath it all. And very, very funny. The film does have one near-fatal flaw, though: at two hours and twenty-six minutes, it is way too long, especially for a comedy. It definitely needed a trim. The film also switches tones quickly about midway through, when George and Ira go to Laura's house, and it feels almost like a different film. If it had been shorter, this effect would have been less severe. It's not as good as Apatow's previous hits The 40 Year Old Virgin or Knocked Up, which promotions for the movie would have you think are very similar, but they have the same amount of raunchy jokes and relevance.
I would recommend this film to all fans of comedy, and fans of Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen.
You can watch the trailer here (lots of the jokes in the trailer have changed or were simply dumped for the final film): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=24VVnvrjI8w