Funny People Movie Review
In just a few short years, Judd Apatow's name has become synonymous with quality comedy as he's been behind many of the best comedies in recent years, including The 40-Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Superbad, Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Pineapple Express, among others. So when his third directorial feature (yes, only his third) was announced with Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen as the leads, expectations were immediately high. And yet, Funny People struggled financially and critically as it is unlike any movie Apatow has worked on before.
Funny People, despite the talent involved and the title itself, is not a comedy. It has comedy in it, but Funny People first and foremost is a drama. People who expect anything else are likely to be disappointed, as it lacks the edginess of Apatow's other movies. It isn't a laugh-out-loud movie, and in fact there are only a few moments that really make you chuckle out loud. Blame the marketing department for attempting to portray it as anything else, as many people came out of the movie on a sour note.
If you accept Funny People for what it truly is, though, the movie is a surprisingly heartfelt and engaging drama that just happens to star "funny people." The movie is specifically written for Sandler and Rogen (Sandler and Apatow once were roommates, and Rogen became a star thanks to Apatow), and it shows. Sandler is one of those actors who I doubt will ever be able to pull off a truly serious role, but when you frame his acting style within a movie such as this, he can really shine. He's goofy much of the time, but there's a human rawness masked underneath. Rogen, meanwhile, is a man just along for the ride; he's funny, but he's still a person who takes blows like everyone else.
The movie feels sincere, as if this is something that Apatow, Sandler or Rogen have gone through at some point in their careers. Funny People is, in many ways, a coming-of-age story for a man who should have grown up twenty years earlier. The movie hits the right emotional chords and presents a melancholy story that is played out by comedians.
Unfortunately, Funny People will always struggle to overcome everything that conflicts with what it truly is: every person involved in the movie is first and foremost associated with comedy. Apatow, Sandler, Rogen, Leslie Mann, Jonah Hill and Jason Schwartzman: these people don't do dramas. Hell, Eric Bana is the only one in the cast who does. It's hard to overcome this stigma, especially when Funny People looks and feels like it should be a comedy. And yet, the movie is a sincere drama with real heart.
Funny People isn't a traditional drama. It still has some of the crude jokes that Apatow's films contain, and the actors involved aren't naturally inclined toward drama. But as Apatow has always done with his films, he's found a balance between the serious and funny aspects of the story; the only difference is that in Funny People, the balance has been shifted toward the dramatic. The marketing for the movie was atrocious and misleading, but if you can get past those expectations, Funny People is a worthwhile movie.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.