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"Funny People"

Directed by Judd Apatow.
Written by Judd Apatow.
Starring Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann and Eric Bana.
Release Year:  2009
Review Date:  8/3/09


Hey, they couldn't ALL be great.

Judd Apatow, who has written, directed, or produced a half-dozen classics in the last five years, has in his new "Funny People" a film that does both comedy and drama sorta well, but never really crushes it thanks to another too-long running time and Adam Sandler in a performance that never quite gets there.

"Funny People" is maybe three different films rolled into one.  The first features Sandler as George Simmons, essentially a made-up version of the real Sandler in that he is playing a former stand-up comic who made it big in major--but, dumb--comedy films.  After learning that he is terminally ill, he hires an assistant named Ira (Seth Rogen) to write jokes AND take care of his household chores while completing a life of banging hot groupies, performing at corporate events and swimming in his pool.  The second film features Rogen as one of three housemates in Los Angeles who goes from deli man to stand-up comic to Simmons's assistant to his life coach.  His roommates include Mark (Jason Schwartzman, as elven as ever), a C-level star of an ABC Family-like hit sitcom, and Leo (Jonah Hill), a more established version of Ira.  This swath of scenes--certainly the funniest in this movie--will remind everyone of the comic scenes in "Knocked Up" where Hill plays a loser living with other losers who inject profane comic relief when necessary.  The third film features George's attempt to get back together with his former girlfriend, Laura (Leslie Mann).  This final 30-40 minutes of "Funny People" ultimately seals its fate; it features one of the stranger manipulations of an audience I have seen in a while, as we watch George and Laura fall back into things, mainly thanks to Laura's belief that George may still be terminally ill, and how that may or may not destroy Laura's family life (she has two kids and an Australian husband, played by Australian Eric Bana), and how all of this may be George's fault.  ???

The first and third films weren't great, but they were occasionally sad, funny, cute or appalling and that was entertaining.  You know coming in that this won't be balls-out comedy like, say, "Superbad" was; but, in having Sandler star as Bizarro Sandler, I thought it would have been better at times to have someone who isn't really a comic play the comic.  It even looks like stock Sandler footage was used to show Simmons at a younger age...this, combined with stock Apatow players Rogen, Hill, Schwartzman, Aziz Ansari and others make this feel like other Apatow comedies but none of these players are built for comedy-drama.  This is probably the only comedy in history to attempt dramatic overtones but still feature a high volume of profane words for someone's johnson.  The two genres can work together, but I don't think they work well when it comes to having someone utter "come on, man, show me your cock" 15-20 times, along with at least 200 f-bombs.  Seriously!

No matter what, I thought the last part of the movie was terrible and completely made "Funny People" derail.  It doesn't help that this film is 150 minutes long.  Friends, I say this a lot on Bellview--comedies should NEVER be this long.  Films featuring Adam Sandler should NEVER be this long.  In the age of Twitter, instant messaging and people that call staying three years at one job "long term", movies should be getting shorter, not longer.  The length of "Funny People", at times, is interminable; at one point late in this film, one guy just stood up and started pacing behind the back row to stretch his legs.

"Funny People" is not bad, but I certainly won't be watching it again, unless someone can put together a DVD for me of just the scenes featuring Hill, Rogen and Schwartzman hangin' out and talking shit.  Hot!

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 08/03/09