Plot: Popular and succussful comedian George Simmons (Adam Sandler) is dying. He goes back to his roots and performs stand-up again. He befriends a struggling comedian named Ira (Seth Rogen) to help write jokes. Ira gets more than he bargained for though as he has to deal with George’s dysfunctional life and relationships.
When I go see a movie called Funny People with Adam Sandler, I expect to laugh. Despite a few chuckles early on, this movie really irritated me. It’s boring. The characters are all jerks. It can’t decide if it wants to be a comedy or a family drama. Oh yeah, did I mention it was boring. And it was almost two and a half hours long, come on! Now this was made by writer/director Judd Apatow, who everyone is just in love with right now. The only movie I’ve seen from him was The 40 Year Old Virgin, which I liked quite a bit. I thought this was going to be a nice little story about comedians. Boy, was I wrong.
The absolute worst part are the little obnoxious inside jokes. I really hate this crap. The same thing happened in Ocean’s 12. Oh, look at us, we’re having so much fun and laughing at each other’s jokes that only we can understand. I didn’t pay seven bucks so I could watch you entertain yourselves. Entertain me, please! Let me explain what I mean. So there are all these jokes about how Seth Rogen’s character Ira (a struggling comedian) loses too much weight because his only charm as a comedian was looking fat and funny. Oh, haha. Get it? Just like Seth Rogen in real life. I couldn’t help but feel this was put in because Apatow and Rogen probably joke about it a lot and find it hilarious. Well good for them. I don’t think it’s funny, and I don’t need it shoved down my throat throughout the movie.
Apatow also casts his own kids in the movie, which is fine, but got problematic with one scene in particular. Everyone is watching a tape of one of the daughters performing a song from Cats in a school play. I don’t know if the performance was real or done specifically for the movie, but it felt like I was watching Judd Apatow’s home movies. Come on! I want to watch a movie here, not your home videos. This is ridiculous. Not only that, but Leslie Mann, who is Apatow’s real wife and who also plays the mother in the film, can’t stop talking about how great the performance is, just as a real mother would. The problem is she is not just talking to a few relatives at Thanksgiving or something, she is telling thousands of moviegoers. It’s a bit annoying, and adds to the fact that the moviegoer is unfulfilled, as it takes you out of the film.
But let’s take a look at the real issue: The movie can’t decide on its genre. It tries to be both comedy and drama. This works great sometimes, such as movies like The Royal Tenenbaums. The problem here is that it’s a half ass comedy and a half ass drama, so what do you get – a half-ass movie.
Now, the first half was okay. I got some laughs, and it was mildly entertaining. I especially like the interplay between Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill and Jason Schwartzman trying to make it as actors and comedians. They were great together, but this completely disappears in the second half. What we get instead is an awkward, unfunny, poorly written family drama. It’s dreadful to watch and it drags on forever.
Adam Sandler’s character, George Simmons, is trying to selfishly break up this family. The sad part is that you don’t like or want to root for any of these characters. Maybe that’s what they were going for, but I’m sorry, it’s just uncomfortable to watch, and not in a good way. If the tension was eased with some jokes, than okay, but there are none worth laughing at. It goes from a mediocre story about comedians to a boring and awkward family drama. And this is the entire second half of the movie. It’s just a completely uneven film.
Now I want to talk about Adam Sandler. Sandler is trying to make an effort to be a more serious actor. He’s shown talent in movies like Punch Drunk Love. The difference between Punch Drunk Love and Funny People though is that Punch Drunk Love is actually funny, so it makes Sandler’s performance stronger because he is in a better film. He’s perfectly fine in Funny People, but the character just isn’t there. The guy is supposed to be this wildly popular comedian, but he’s flat out boring and uninteresting. I don’t get it.
I think Sandler’s best stuff was Happy Gilmore and The Wedding Singer. Maybe the stuffy critics will disagree with me, but that’s how I feel. Those movies were gut-bustingly hilarious, whereas Sandler now does these half comedies/half dramas like Spanglish, and to a lesser extent, Click. These movies blow bags, as does Funny People. I know he’s trying to grow up, but I guess part of me is selfish and wants him to go make Happy Gilmore 2. I prefer him fighting Bob Barker and talking to invisible penguins rather than playing some jackass comedian who’s on death’s door, but that’s me.
So if you are expecting a few good laughs at the movies, don’t see Funny People. You’ll be bored to tears. Maybe I wanted something different, but this one just annoyed me with its pretentious inside jokes and lackluster characters. If Judd Apatow is having a good time and laughing it up with his family and buddies, than good for him, but as a moviegoer, it turns me off. It feels like this: “Hey, look how much fun we are having in our little world and you’re only invited until the credits come on.”
I think comedies are suffering right now. We either get an atrocious Will Ferrell piece of garbage or these half-ass dramedies. I miss the days of Dumb and Dumber, Wayne’s World and Kingpin. Clever writing, downright hysterical and never took themselves too seriously. The Seth Rogens and Will Ferrells just don’t compare to the talents in those movies.
Although, I feel I might be alone on this. So be it.
Rating: 4.0 out of 10.