When you name your movie “Funny People,” you better fucking back it up.
When you name your movie “Funny People,” you better fucking back it up. I mean, you wouldn’t name a movie “Badass Express” and then cast Kevin Kline and Bill Hader as grizzled law enforcement veterans, would you? As far as I can tell, director Judd Apatow was using the word “funny” in an ironic sense, like “wouldn’t it be funny if a comedian was dying?” Well, after having sat through almost two hours of his dead-end ruminations on this tedious theme, I can only reply by asking “wouldn’t it be funny if Apatow’s next film was a pornographic snuff film starring himself and Seth Rogen?”
Because let’s be honest here: Rogen is not a funny man. Sure he’s overweight in that non-threatening, elementary school janitor kind of way, and he talks like the friendly guy behind the counter at the local McDonalds. However, these qualities don’t make you a star, and the only reason I can conceive of for Apatow’s insistence on casting him in the majority of his films is that a secret love has blossomed between the two Hollywood hotshots. It is often said that serial killers murder their victims so that no one else can ever possess them, and from the amount of time Apatow spends directing his lens onto Rogen’s chunky face I feel it is inevitable that one day, the public will be treated to grainy, night-vision footage of their awkward physical intimacy followed by two gunshots and then silence.
But back to the movie. Rogen is far from the only actor horrendously miscast in “Funny People.” You can’t manufacture the frenetic energy and audience connection that stand-up comedians have with their audience, and supporters Jonah Hill and Jason Schwartzman simply can’t cut it, no matter how many times Apatow waves his magic wand over them or sprinkles their bare asses with fairy dust. Adam Sandler puts in a credible performance as the dying comedian in question, largely because he isn’t allowed to yell at pregnant women or punch Bob Barker’s corpse, but even his effort is wasted thanks to a script that meanders throughout its final third.
Mel Brooks once said, “Tragedy is when I fall down an open manhole and die. Comedy is when you fall down an open manhole and die.” Apatow apparently misunderstood and thought that as long as SOMEONE was dying, we could both laugh AND cry. He was wrong. The film is utterly ruined by Apatow’s indulgence in maudlin sentimentality. In a tedious attempt to give Sandler’s suddenly not-dying character depth, his mission goes from “trying not to die right now” to “trying not to die alone, eventually”. As he attempts to reconnect with a lover from his past, the audience becomes trapped in a seemingly endless weekend stay at the-one-that-got-away’s house. We are bombarded by images of marital bliss, then marital discord, then a bizarre boxing match on the front lawn that couldn’t possibly feel more contrived if it had instead taken place in space with the entire cast replaced by Klingons.
“Funny People” is the kind of film that Woody Allen would have made if, instead of New York, he had been born in an suburban neighborhood outside of Ohio. Even with a gamut of comedian cameos, including a bizarre turn by rapper Eminem as himself cursing at Ray Romano in a chintzy dinner lounge, the movie falls flat on it’s face and begins to implode after the first hour or so. My advice to you is take the ten dollars you were going to spend on this flick, exchange it at the bank for a roll of pennies, and then slowly eat them one by one until you either pass out or gain some kind of super power.
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