Published Jul 30, 2009Mulling around in his Xanadu-sized Hollywood mansion, George Simmons (Adam Sandler) is a famous comedian with all kinds of money and nobody to share it with. And he's dying. Maybe. After being diagnosed with a rare blood condition and subsequently bombing at an L.A. club, George meets struggling comic Ira Wright (Seth Rogen) and hires him to write material and fetch Diet Cokes.
Ira soon urges George to tell his friends and family about his disease, in an effort to make peace with his imminent expiration. The procession of uncomfortable reunions leads to sparks between George and former fiancé Laura (Leslie Mann), now married with two kids. As they grow closer, Ira's caught in the middle, himself suffering from a terminal case of foot-in-mouth syndrome.
When all the ducks are in a row, Funny People has the makings of a great movie. But Apatow's a bit too eager to show his hand. Though he may be gunning for the spot of James L. Brooks's heir apparent, Funny People's blend of comedy and drama is awkwardly proportioned. The first act, in which George copes with his sickness and brings Ira on as his wisenheimer man-at-hand, is hurried, and the home-wrecking family drama of the film's final act is bloated, treading water for too long in the overly-ambitious tears of clown business.
Though it could easily stand to be trimmed by 20 or so minutes, Funny People really is funny. Considering that the best stuff in Apatow's films has always been characters playfully riffing off one another (see: the volley of beard jokes lobbed at Martin Starr in Knocked Up), setting Funny People in the midst of L.A.'s stand-up comedy scene makes the steady flow of one-liners, fart jokes and Die Hard references that much more natural.
The supporting cast is great (especially Jason Schwartzman as Ira's roomie and Eric Bana as Laura's Aussie beaux) and there are enough laugh-out-loud moments to almost make you forget Apatow's clumsy navigation of love, lament and second chances. Almost. (Universal)