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.



Popular posts from this blog

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #70: Stand by Me

Another clear influence on Stranger Things, Rob Reiner’s Stand by Me (1986) portrays American kids from a lost era in which they could go on an adventure away from home. Nowadays if children go missing for more than an hour parents try to locate them using cell phone apps, but in the story written by Stephen King four boys in 1959 Oregon go walking in the woods during a long weekend to look for, of all things, a dead body. Their lives are sometimes at risk, they have no way of communicating with their parents, but they will definitely have a story to remember for the rest of their lives.
For many North Americans adults this movie fondly reminded them of a time in their childhood despite the inherent danger. Not so for me since, first of all, there was no time in my childhood when I could possibly go out of the house for more than three hours without my mom getting in her car to go look for me. The there is the fact that I spent a good chunk of my childhood living in Chile and Peru, an…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #77: Spartacus

Spartacus (1960) is an interesting movie in Stanley Kubrick's filmography because it doesn’t really feel like a Stanley Kubrick movie. I don’t exactly know why, but his signature style doesn’t seem to be present unlike in classics such as The Shining, A Clockwork Orange, or Dr. Strangelove. It does however feel like one of those big sword-and-sandals epics in which you have British thespians acting as Roman politicians with the occasional big battle sequence. In that respect it is spectacular and features Kirk Douglas at his best as the titular hero.
The story of the rebel slave Spartacus has inspired a bloody and sexy TV series (so far unseen by me, but I hear it’s great) and the story behind how it was made is one of those cases of life imitating art. The Bryan Cranston film Trumbo tells how screenwriter Dalton Trumbo was blacklisted in Hollywood during the 1950s for his communist beliefs and had to rebel against the system by writing screenplays for cheap movies under a fake nam…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #79: The Thin Red Line

I once saw an interview in which Christopher Plummer said that what Terrence Malick needs is a writer. He was referring to his experience shooting The New World, which saw his role considerably reduced. The same happened to a much greater extent with Malick’s war movie The Thin Red Line (1998), which saw the screen time of many movie stars reduced to mere minutes amid a 170-minute running time. However you have to hand it to the guy: he knows how to make anything look beautiful, including the carnage of war.
Malick’s movie came out the same year as Saving Private Ryan, so I think that year I had my fill of ultra violent war films and was no too interested in seeing it. Sixteen years later I finally caught up to it on Netflix, but in hindsight the big screen might have been a better option since this is a very visual story. The plot is pretty loose, following one American soldier and sometimes some of his brothers in arms as they make their way through World War II in the Pacific theat…