Funny People * * * *
Directed by: Judd Apatow / 2009
Legends of Comedy Watching From the Walls…
Writer-director Judd Apatow is extremely talented and a work horse. No, not because he’s become the equivalent of a Steven Spielberg film making cash cow in the comedy production realm or because he shot a million feet of film on his latest picture. Rather, this 41-year-old is on to something special. True, sometimes that “something” is hidden in movie formulaic, bromance, dirty mouths and predictability. But, he has the chops and ability to put a unique spin on the material and somehow make it work, stunningly so, easily so, and time and time again. He also has the ability to go from super foul ball(s) to home run warmth in seconds and his legacy is already seeping into films he’s not even involved with. There is something honest about the work he is releasing to where it’s living outside of the time frame of the movie. Not to mention he seems to be having the time of his life and gets to include his life, with family and friends participating. With “Funny People”, Apatow nearly misses his masterpiece, at least from my perspective, for now. Oh man was he close. But, this is a two and a half hour long epic comedy (perhaps dramedy?), that needs to be devoured for more than just the mere 48 hours I’ve chewed on it. And like films he’s either directed, written or produced, this one will get better with age.
When Adam Sandler’s “George Simmons” gets a new lease on his life after his doctor finds a window of health in his recent bout with cancer, he hopes to get better in an instant with “life stuff”. But, George doesn’t realize it takes time and a little coming of age (even if he’s in mid-life) that he missed out on in the selfish light of show business as a top comic-turn-actor. Sandler digs deep, even though I’m wishing he would have dug a little deeper in the role (okay, hit me because I was expecting more). This is the best he’s been since “Spanglish” and “Punch-Drunk Love”, the latter being the one that revealed the world to his range and the former being a way under-appreciated performance. I look forward to watching Sandler move on up. However, it’s the support of Seth Rogen who glues the movie for me and shows a new side. And per usual, there is the rest of the Apatow dumpy gang (ha-ha), including legends of comedy watching from the walls in a brilliant choice of set decorating. I won’t go on with saying more about the movie as I’d stall and run this review out of gas worse than the third act of “Funny People” did (whoops). Yeah, it just didn’t knock out of the park completely for me. Although, I left the theater sensing that characters are still working, still growing. This film is growing on me as well.
I enjoy Apatow’s crass ‘n’ comfort levels, and hearing things I never thought could be conjured in a young man’s mind (or middle-aged man!?), but at the same time I can’t help but feel he works better when censored. Am I saying tone it down some? Maybe? I’m no prude, but maybe doing so might reveal that “something” to be really-really special, without the aid of male anatomy jokes to fill in the cracks (oh, brother). And it just might be old man Apatow on the wall watching a new crop of comedians in the years to come. If you’re a fan of T.V.’s excellent “Freaks & Geeks” (partnered with creator Paul Feig), it’s easy to say that he’s already been there and done that, censored masterpiece speaking. But, Apatow has since moved up to nearly missing the curtain call of masterpiece theater and it’s going to be a pleasure to watch his work grow in the big-time. And leading the comedy pack of this century, he has plenty of room to grow. Though, like “George Simmons”, he just needs a little more time. -djg