Skip to main content

Funny People

Adam Sandler does something rather brave in this movie: he plays a guy that if he wasn’t rich, famous, or funny, you would have a hard liking him. The character is George Simmons, a Hollywood comedian whose career is modeled on Sandler’s own and the film even begins with old footage of him doing prank calls years ago. The camera is held by Judd Apatow, the actual director of the movie.

In fact, this movie has Apatow’s name written all over it. His wife, Leslie Mann, plays Laura, an old flame of George, and her children are played by their real-life children and they are pretty good at well, playing kids. Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill, Apatow regulars, play Ira Wright and Leo Koenig, aspiring stand-up comedians living in Los Angeles, the usual local for Apatow films. They share a room with Jason Schwartzman, who actually has a steady job staring in a second-rate sitcom, while Ira works at a deli and lives on the couch. This understandably causes some animosity amongst the roommates.

These characters interact when George receives some grave news: he may be dying soon. He has no wife, no children, is estranged from his relatives, and his only friends are fellow comedians. Try telling Andy Dick that you might be terminal and see what happens. George then decides to go back to his roots and hits the comedy club scene, where he meets Ira. He thinks he is mildly funny so he hires to be his assistant/writer.

Ira is overjoyed at the prospect of working for his comedy idol, but soon finds himself dealing with more than he bargained for. He has to sell George’s impressive car collection, deal with him as he gets sick, and then deal with him when he recovers and finds a new zest for life. This leads to George trying to get back with the “one who got away,” Laura, who is now married with children. Her husband is Clarke, played by Eric Bana and sporting a thick Australian accent which is enough to intimidate the two American comedians.

All of this provides for funny situations involving all of these funny people, chief among them a fistfight involving Sandler, Bana and an unwilling Rogen. Talk about a bad case of the third wheel.

Yet despite these funny situations and the myriad of real-life comedians performing cameos as themselves, there are some rather serious situations. George finds himself contemplating his own mortality and the meaning of his shallow life in his big empty house. Ira eventually realises that his hero is a very flawed who shows little or no gratefulness and still treats him like an errand boy despite having spent Thanksgiving with him. One can only hope that Sandler is only exploring what he would have been like if he only had his career and no friends.

All of this makes a very compelling story punctuated by funny moments that are profanity-laden, as it should be with an R-rated comedy. Unfortunately, this story could have used some trimming. There are many things happening between George’s health problems, his love life, his relationship with Ira, Ira’s own love life, and Ira’s relationship with his roommates. That, plus the many deleted scenes that are usually found on an Apatow DVD makes you wonder how long an uncut version of this movie would be.

Despite this flaw, this film provides an insightful look into the world of stand-up comedians. When you stand in front of an audience with the intention to make them laugh, two things can happen: you can either kill or be killed. Think about that. This is also the only movie where you can see the likes of James Taylor, Sarah Silverman, Ray Romano and Eminem playing themselves. That alone is worth the rent.

B-

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #85: Blue Velvet

Exactly how do you describe a David Lynch movie? He is one of the few directors whose style is so distinctive that his last name has become an adjective. According to Urban Dictionary, the definition of Lynchian is: “having the same balance between the macabre and the mundane found in the works of filmmaker David Lynch.” To see a prime example of that adjective film lovers need look no further than Lynch’s Blue Velvet (1986), which does indeed begin in the mundane before slowly sinking in macabre violence.
My first introduction to the world of David Lynch was through his ground breaking, but unfortunately interrupted, early 1990s TV series Twin Peaks. This was one of the first television shows to grab viewers with a series-long mystery: who killed Laura Palmer? A mix of soap opera, police procedural, and the supernatural, it is a unique show that showed the darkness hidden in suburbia and remains influential to this day. Featuring Kyle MacLachlan as an FBI investigator with a love for …

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #90: When Harry Met Sally...

There is an age-old question regarding whether single men and women can be just friends. In real life the answer is obviously “yes,” but in movies and TV the answer always has to be that at some point two single characters will get attracted to each other and move beyond friendship. On TV I find this to be contrived and overused, but some movies can have a lot of fun with the concept, most notably Rob Reiner’s comedy classic When Harry Met Sally…(1989). It may not change your view on love and friendship, but it forever changed the meaning of the phrase “I’ll have what she’s having.”
On paper this film’s premise sounds like another rom-com, but seen by oneself during an evening of Netflix binging it does make you think about deep stuff like the long-term impact of your decisions on your life. A person you meet during a tense trip might turn up again sometime later down the road in the most unexpected ways. If there is one thing I believe in it is infinite possibilities, and Nora Ephron…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #83: Brazil

Dystopian movies from the 1980s are a funny thing since we now live in the future of those movies and if you look at the news for more than five minutes it will feel as though we are one bad day away from being into a dystopia. On the plus side, if it ends up looking like the dystopia portrayed in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985) at least we will have lovely architecture to look at while the government is busy telling us how to think. This might not be a movie that will cheer you up, but the production design is amazing, the performances are great throughout, and you get to see Robert DeNiro play a maintenance man/freedom fighter.
I first saw Brazil as a Terry Gilliam double feature at the UniversitĂ© de Sherbrooke’s movie club paired along with 12 Monkeys around ten years ago. Those two films are similar in that they both feature a rather dour future and, as with most Gilliam movies, incredibly intricate sets. However the dystopian future in Brazil is somewhat scarier than the disease-ra…