Funny People


Funny People

Jason Schwartzmann, Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill are all funny people.

(Universal) Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Eric Bana, Leslie Mann, Jason Schwartzmann, RZA, Aubrey Plaza, Aziz Ansari. Directed by Judd Apatow

We love to laugh. Those who can make us laugh with amazing regularity own a special place in our hearts. However, the cost of that laughter can often be unbearable.

George Simmons (Sandler) is one of the planet’s top comedians. His movies have grossed hundreds of millions, and his stand-up act is legendary. He is also undeniably alone; his ex-girlfriend Laura (Mann) left him because George cheated on her. Now, George has just received some devastating news – he has a rare and fatal blood disease. His doctors want to try an experimental treatment, but the prognosis is grim.

Ira Wright (Rogen) is an aspiring stand-up who, as his co-worker Chuck (RZA) at the deli he works at opines, isn’t very funny. Ira sleeps on the couch in an apartment shared by Ira’s friend Leo (Hill) who is also a stand-up comedian (only much better and more successful) and Mark (Schwartzmann) who has hit the jackpot – he’s the lead on an NBC sitcom that, while not very good, at least pays Mark exceedingly well.

George decides to excise his demons through standup and goes to an open-mike competition at his old stomping grounds where Ira and Leo are also performing, along with Randy (Ansari), a rival comic with a biting sense of humor. George is somewhat impressed with Ira and Leo and offers them jobs as writers but Ira, in an uncharacteristic move, cuts Leo out of the equation.

The two form an odd relationship as George hires Ira to be his assistant but there’s definitely a bond between them. Ira is one of the few people…okay the only person…that George can confide in. Otherwise, George is somewhat insufferable, often treating Ira like dirt, so isolated by his own celebrity that he can’t reach out in his hour of need.

Despite the title, this isn’t a movie about comedy or even really about comedians, and despite the plot it’s not a movie about dealing with mortality either. That’s more or less a side issue. What the movie is about is isolation and what it does to us. This is a movie about human beings who happen to work as comedians, but it isn’t about being a comedian.

If this all sounds confusing, don’t be. It works as a matter of fact, particularly the first two-thirds of the movie. Where it falls flat is in the last third wherein George tries to win Laura back from her obnoxiously macho Aussie husband (Bana). Even though Mann gives a thoroughly satisfying performance in her role as George’s muse, the sad fact of the matter is that the situation here is painful in many ways and when Ira pleads “Can’t we just go now” I can empathize.

On the plus side, Sandler and Rogen both give their best performances ever. Sandler shows the kind of depth he displayed in Punch Drunk Love and Reign Over Me and takes it to new levels. This is far from the lovable kinds of characters he’s played in movies like Happy Gilmore or Bedtime Stories; in fact, George Simmons is a bit of a prick. It takes some courage to go as far out of his comfort zone as Sandler appears to here.

Rogen has mostly played lovable stoners throughout his career. Here, he is a bit more driven, a bit more ambitious and a little less lovable. He’s basically a decent guy and yet he screws over a friend. He is kind of sweet on fellow comedian Daisy (Plaza) but can’t bring himself to ask her out on a date and gets furious with her when she sleeps with Mark. Yes, he’s a bit of a loser but one senses he isn’t going to remain that way for long.

I liked the movie enough to overlook that final reel which doesn’t work as well. The crux of the movie seems to belong more in the relationship between George and Ira than it does to George and Laura; certainly that whole sequence could and should have been cut down significantly.

What works here works really well. The standup sequences are incredible in places, and I did laugh a lot throughout. While there is a good deal of emphasis on penis humor, it isn’t enough to be off-putting. Sadly, the movie was mis-marketed by Universal who portrayed the movie as a straight comedy and it really isn’t that, so the film didn’t do the box office it probably deserved. However, it is worth taking a peek, particularly if you like your movies to run the gamut of emotions.

WHY RENT THIS: Some genuinely funny moments as well as some genuine pathos. Sandler and Rogen are at the top of their games.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: The whole winning back of his wife thing is often awkward and uncomfortable.

FAMILY VALUES: There is a tremendous amount of blue language and some crude sexual references; it’s R-rated stand-up comedy for sure.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: George and Ira are named after the brothers George and Ira Gershwin, the famous composer and lyricist who among other things, composed Rhapsody in Blue.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: There’s a lot going on, both on the 2-disc Collectors DVD edition and the Blu-Ray.  There is a video diary from Apatow that gives extensive insight into the making of the movie. Archival footage shows Sandler and Apatow appearances on Letterman, Dennis Miller’s talk show and “The Midnight Hour with Bill Maher.” There’s also a faux documentary on Randy, the Ansari character who will be getting a feature film of his own shortly and a “highlight reel” of George’s film career. There are also the full versions of the songs James Taylor performs at the MySpace Party, as well as full jams between Sandler and Jon Brion, and some rapping by RZA. The Blu-Ray version also contains an appearance on the Charlie Rose Show by Sandler and Apatow promoting the film. All in all one of the more impressive packages for any recent release.

FINAL RATING: 6.5/10

TOMORROW: Eat, Pray, Love

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Program Notes


There are a lot of things going on here at Cinema365 and I just want to share a few things with you.

First of all, we set a new site record for views in a single day with 177 on Monday. Most of you came in to read my review of The Bounty Hunter but a lot stopped in at other pages as well. Thank you all for your continued support; I’ll admit that was a bit flukey, but overall, viewership/readership/whatever you want to call it is up. I’m not sure if I’m ready for the site to start <gulp> making money but hopefully it will start to attract some attention.

As I mentioned in a post last week, the Florida Film Festival is coming and Cinema365 will be attending six screenings at the three main venues, including the brand spankin’ new Plaza in downtown Orlando. All save one of the movies I’ll be seeing will get full reviews within a day or two of me seeing it (the films have all been released on the limited market prior to the Film Festival). The lone exception is Winter’s Bone which is not scheduled for its limited release until June. Out of respect for the filmmakers and the distributor, we will only run a mini-review for the film during the festival and will post the full review on its scheduled release date.

My wife, Da Queen and I will be taking a vacation starting May 15 – we’re going to be going to China! Quite frankly, I have no intention of lugging the laptop all over Asia with me, so the site will not be updated during the nearly three weeks we’re gone. This is smack in the middle of May, one of the most important months for major studio releases of the year. The intention is to see Robin Hood the day its released on May 14 and post the review early the next morning before we leave. That will be my last posting until we return. We will be trying to catch up with the other big studio releases of late May and the first week of June (which will include Shrek Forever After and Prince of Persia: Sands of Time) and begin playing catch-up when we get home. Hopefully this won’t inconvenience you too much.

Previews are a big part of what we do here. Along with the weekly previews of movies opening up in Orlando every Wednesday (this week’s edition will be posted later this afternoon), we also do two seasonal previews as well as an annual preview. The first seasonal preview of the year is the 2010 Summer Preview and it will be posted on Thursday, April 29 for your reading pleasure. It will cover the months of May through August and will be as complete and as accurate as I can make it as of that date. Both the 2009 Fall Preview and the 2010 Preview have received some of the largest number of view of any pages here at C-365 so hopefully you will find the 2010 Summer Preview useful and fun.

In the spirit of that Iam going to be presenting a new monthly feature that will be debuting tomorrow. It’s called “Four-warned” and will act as a kind of anticipation meter for all the films scheduled for release for the upcoming month. In the future I will try to post this around the 15th of every month for the month following. I will choose the four movies I’m most anticipating for that month (which will all generally be reviewed as a new release that month) and rate my level of anticipation on a scale of one to four. This is not meant to be a review of the quality of these films – merely a way of communicating whether or not I’m looking forward to seeing them. There won’t be a lot of prose other than one or two sentences concerning the plot and the type of release its getting (wide, limited or special run) but hopefully this will serve to help you get a handle on what’s due to come out in the next four weeks and the information should be a bit more up-to-date than the seasonal previews.

This site is a labor of love and obsession, and its gratifying to know that it is catching on with some people. We’re averaging about 175 views a week (although this week will be significantly higher than that) and hopefully that will continue to grow. If you like what you see here, feel free to talk it up with your friends or post the link on your social network page (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter etc.). Oh, and for those who are interested, yes indeed I have accounts on all of those networks; if you want to add me as a friend or follow me, leave me a comment with a link to your page or your e-mail address and I’ll add you or send you a link to mine.

Thanks again and happy movie-going!