If there’s one word to describe Funny People, it would be “taxing”. This melodramatic comedy features an aging Adam Sandler (who, as he ages, miraculously looks more and more like Bob Dylan) as well as this generation’s most lovable stoner, Seth Rogan. Also included are numerous cameos (Andy Dick, Dave Attell and Eminem, to name a few) in addition to some nostalgic footage of Sandler in his youth.
The film follows big-time comedian George Simmons (Sandler) as he learns to cope with life in death after being diagnosed with a terminal case of AML, a rare blood disorder associated with leukemia. Knowing he has only a short time to live, Simmons hires struggling comedian Ira Wright/Weiner (Rogan) to assist him in writing jokes and work as his personal assistant. While Ira’s roommates Leo (Jonah Hill) and Mark (Jason Schwartzman) are becoming more and more popular on the comedy circuit, working with Simmons is Ira’s only shot at becoming legitmately employed in his craft. As time progresses, however, Ira finds himself becoming a dying man’s confidant and friend.
As Simmons falls more ill, the miserly, self-loathing comedian contemplates and evaluates his missed chances at love and friendship, ultimately becoming enlightened to a life that could have been. When experimental treatment begins to ameliorate the sickness, he suddenly finds himself in position to make good on the poor life decisions he’s made to that point.
Having a new lease on life, the fortunate funnyman ventures out to mend the bridges he burned while his fame increasingly consumed him throughout his career. Nevertheless, he is forced to realize what his happiness costs to those who have moved on with their lives throughout the previous dozen years.
While Funny People begins with intelligent, dark humor, the film drags on to the point of boredom. For those who have seen Knocked Up and 40 Year Old Virgin, stop me if you’ve heard this one before: promising comedy turns serious, dramatic, and, before you know it, its just way too long. Honestly, as I left the theater there was a young man who had to be woken up from what was undoubtedy a thirty minute-plus slumber.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the Apatow frat pack as much as the next guy. I like the style of comedy, the quick wit and the endearing personalities. The humor in this film was unique, in fact, as it almost felt like I was watching lines taken not from a script, but from a stand-up routine which was both interesting and entertaining. That said, the comedy consistently diminishes as the movie lags on. And on. And on.
For me, Funny People was really two movies in one: the journey to finding the happiness of life in the spirit of death as well as positively dealing with the opportunities that have been missed. In hindsight, this is a fantastic premise for a film — but all in due time. Clocking in at two hours, sixteen minutes, I don’t necessarily need to watch the sequel to a movie that could have finished an hour prior. Unless I’m witnessing an illustrious epic, give me my standard hour-and-a-half runtime and save me the unnecessary details for the director’s cut. In all actuality, the end credits may very well still be rolling as I write this.
While Funny People does have its moments of hilarity and clever witticism, it simply goes into the tank after the first hour or so and, unfortunately, never really recovers.
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