Monday, August 17, 2009

Funny People

"Oh, it's twue- it's twue!"

A famous comedian turned movie star finds out he's dying, comes to terms with it, and then is miraculously heeled. Unfortunately, his new lease on life doesn't heal so well.

There's only one unforgivable transgression committed by Judd Apatow's newest movie, and it's one that, given how delayed I was in putting up this review, you've probably heard from other reviewers already. Funny People is two hours of lovable and hate-able characters wrapped up in an interestingly told and oddly affecting story- unfortunately, it's two and a half hours long.

I am not a person to be put off by hefty runtimes, IF said runtime is justified. Some stories just can't be told in 120, or even 150, minutes. But when you watch those stories, the time passes unnoticed. Given an editing suite you wouldn't know where to cut- because it all feels relevant.

Not so with Funny People. Here I would have no trouble finding the perfect birth for my scissors. I would start with the "roommates". I find Jonah Hill and Jason Schwatzman very funny when they're in their element- this movie being a perfect example of their element- but funny or no, they aren't necessary to tell the story. So as I was laughing, I found myself thinking: 'What does this have to do with the plot?' You can get away with that in a movie like Anchorman, where the sole goal is to make the audience laugh. But Funny People had a story to tell.

That story is where the real genius starts to show. It's an interesting and well total story- but that's not it. The genius is in George Simmons, Adam Sandlers character. Simmons' name is fake, and his movies are either lampoonings of Sandler's films or believably terrible story ideas, but everything else about George Simmons is real. Clips of him as a young man are actually real footage of Sandler's early career. All of his celebrity friends are actual celebrities, names and careers unchanged. He is a creation fashioned completely from reality, and it adds a depth to Simmons that is hard to resist.

Leslie Mann turns in that same enjoyable performance we've come to know and fantasize about... And Seth Rogen conjures a truly love-able character in Ira Wright. Along with an at times labored performance from Eric Bana (though it is really nice to hear his real accent), the core of this movie is an entertaining and occasionally touching romp. Unfortunately, you have to sit through a lot of extras to get it.

Reel Deal Recommends:

Spanglish: For a touching Adam Sandler dramedy.

Knocked Up: For a team-up between Apatow and Rogen.

Rushmore: For a quirky and hilarious Jason Schwartzman.

Accepted: For Jonah Hill hilarity.

Troy: For a bit better Bana, and more buff Bana body.

The Cable Guy: For Leslie Mann, though like a fine wine she got better with age. Ignore the reviews, it's funny.

I mentioned too many people in this review.

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