Watching Funny People

Judd Apatow’s new movie “Funny People” is funny – at times. It’s also pretty darn serious at others, and that’s what will make watching the box office figures this weekend quite interesting.

Apatow teams his old friend Seth Rogen with Adam Sandler in an examination of that wondrous breed of human called the comedian. Rogen plays Ira Wright, a not very good young comic, who through a quirk of fate catches the attention of a comedy superstar George Simmons (Sandler.)

George is a little down because he has just learned he has an untreatable blood disease which is probably going to kill him. George realizes he was pretty unhappy even before the bad news. He pays Ira to write him jokes as he goes back to his roots and tries to find himself doing stand-up. Ira gets a mentor and George, who has burned through all his friends, gets a pal he can order around.

There are moments of great hilarity and a hoard of cameos by other comedians and musicians playing themselves, some which are priceless.

But the comedy is overwhelmed by the weight of the drama as the film moves on. And it moves on for a long time, clocking in at almost 2 and a half hours. The laughs are great, but the drama teaches us little about life, death, or comedians which we didn’t already know.

Like “Shrink,” the movie about a dope-smoking psychiatrist to the stars which also opens this weekend, “Funny People” runs rails travelled by many movies before. However unlike “Shrink” which is saved by strong performances by Kevin Spacey and others in the cast, “Funny People” doesn’t have the acting muscle to keep from dragging.

The Apatow name will draw crowds who loved “40 Year Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up.” But it will be interesting to see if it suffers the same the fate as “Bruno” which had a great opening night, but then apparently fell foul of the Twitterverse, and saw ticket sales plummet as people posted their 140 character reactions.

  • Mary L.

    I’ve been intrigued by Adam Sandler for a few years. In fact, I’m one of the few people that liked “Spanglish.” So after reading Denby’s review of “Funny People” in the New Yorker I went to see the movie on Friday night. I thought that there was a good movie in there, but it was lost in about 30-45 minutes of the director’s inability to cut long scenes involving his wife and kids.