Coming soon – Adam Sandler in Merman

Seth Rogen and Aubrey Plaza in Funny People

Seth Rogen and Aubrey Plaza in Funny People

Funny People movie review

– by Shawn Conner

Before it turns into a half-hour infomercial for the Apatow family, Funny People has some good stuff going for it. A lot of it we’ve seen before; Adam Sandler getting all serious, Seth Rogen being all innocent and regular-guy-like, Rogen, Jonah Hill and Jason Schwartzman doing that funny guys-being-guys thing.

Funny People (could they think of a more generic title?) also has a lot of good lines (“I’m not cute like you,” Rogen tells Schwartzman’s sitcom-star character; “I don’t look like Jackson Browne“), a star-making turn by actress Aubrey Plaza, some extended scenes of comedians riffing that really work, and some details that are just right.

For instance, Sandler essentially plays himself – a comedian who’s gotten rich making terrible high-concept comedies – and Funny People gets these movies-within-a-movie, including Merman, My Best Friend is a Robot and Re-Do (where Sandler’s head is planted on the body of a baby), lambastingly perfect. The apartment shared by Rogen, Hill and Schwartzman’s comedy nerds is appropriately decorated in Post-Animal House Modern. And the development of Rogen from an uncertain stand-up comic to a more assured performer seems real.

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But, and it’s a big but, the movie takes a lot of wrong turns getting to the two-hour-plus finish line. That running time right there is a warning sign; brevity really is the soul of wit, and Funny People not only overstays its welcome by at least a half-hour, especially for a comedy, but uses a bait-and-switch technique on the way. Hey, it’s Terms of Endearment with comedians! Wait, it’s a actually a romantic comedy about a guy having a mid-life crisis! No, it’s none of those things – it’s a bromance. None of which play out in a satisfying manner.

I was reminded of Spanglish, another movie where a more-serious-than-usual Sandler lives in a big house in Los Angeles; The Royal Tenenbaums, particularly the scene where Royal (Gene Hackman) tells Anjelica Huston he’s dying; and previous entries from the Apatow oeuvre, especially the chemistry between the male roommates in Knocked Up. The writer/director really is at his best when capturing the rhythms of young, essentially good guys who like to kid around a lot. And smoke pot. I was also reminded of Bruno because, if it’s dick jokes you want, Funny People makes the latest Sacha Baron Cohen vehicle seem like The Sound of Music.

But there’s another problem with Funny People, although this one might be more subjective. In a movie where Adam Sandler plays a rich comic, and Norm McDonald, Ray Romano, Sarah Silverman and Eminem (in five of the most excruciating moments ever put to celluloid) turn up as themselves, taking Rogen at face value – the movie would have us believe he’s a struggling comic who works at a deli by day – is difficult. He’s not the regular guy Apatow would have us believe anymore, at least not in this company; he’s one of them.

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