Whether you’re able to catch Funny People in the theater or wait for its release on DVD, my advice remains the same: watch the movie, laugh your guts out, and then never think about the film ever again. Perhaps more so than any other film in the Judd Apatow series, Funny People attempts the difficult challenge of combining laugh-out-loud hilarity with “real life” seriousness. But like many other films before, the drama steals run-time for the comedy, while the same effect occurs vice-versa. The result is a hypnotic cinematic experience that causes you to believe the film is excellent while viewing, but upon later reflection you may realize how residual laughter from prior scenes had distracted you from the obviously poor writing in others.
However, Judd Apatow’s third film (indicated by the movie poster, as if fans can’t count that high for themselves) delivers a large amount of positivity in spite of its flaws. First of all, Seth Rogen has yet to overstay his welcome in the comedy world, even with the high doses he’s been administered to audiences in the last few years. I’ll admit, I was pretty worried after Observe and Report that the Rogen flame had completely burned out, but his efforts in this latest role have completely restored my faith and respect for the 27-year-old actor.
Secondly, for any of you who might’ve been growing tired of Leslie Mann’s repeated bitch routine we’ve seen over and over from Big Daddy to Knocked Up, Apatow has finally returned Mann to her sweeter side, reminding us of the actress’s versatility and range. In fact, Mann has not portrayed such sweetness since her portrayal of Robin in 1996’s The Cable Guy. On the same note, if you were thinking you couldn’t stomach another shy and introverted character from Jason Schwartzman, prepare to be pleasantly surprised. Schwartzman has fun wandering over to the opposite side of coin, playing Rogen’s arrogant yet hilarious roommate who you’re guaranteed to love to hate.
Lastly, and most importantly, Funny People marks the best Adam Sandler movie since…you know, I can’t even remember. Finally, a Sandler movie that doesn’t place him in a wacky situation (oh man, a remote that controls time!) or as a troubled individual in a melodramatic “think piece” who mumbles every line to show his sensitive side. Instead, Funny People lets Sandler be exactly who he is: himself. Perhaps one of the best treasures in this near two-and-a-half-hour comedy epic is actual footage from Sandler’s early years, the time of his career that consisted of flamboyant impressions, funny faces, and childish sounds. And somehow we even get the sense that Sandler is perfectly aware of what he has lost as his career has “matured.” We see George Simmons, Sandler’s character, regaining a lost part of his life’s joy as he returns to stand-up, meanwhile staring emptily at the TV as it airs his own ridiculous films (which include him playing a merman and a man with a baby’s body).
So with those points mentioned, you could do worse than spend the longer-than-average viewing time on this film. (Unless you purchased the extended director’s cut DVD. If the theatrical run time was nearly 150 minutes, I’d imagine the uncut version would be nicknamed Lord of the Funny People.) And let it be perfectly clear that Apatow could’ve done far worse as well. Even during the moments when it ceases to be funny, Funny People never fails to be fun. I would only suggest to Apatow that he remember his strengths, and to be comfortable with the knowledge that he’s not Woody Allen. I would hate to see, a few years down the road, an Apatow trailer and think, Oh yay, another comedy that teaches me about how difficult life is and how to be a good person.
Make us laugh, Mr. Apatow. Because as of right now, there’s no one better at it in the business.