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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-

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