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Funny People (2009)

George Simmons (Adam Sandler), a well-known comedian, has spent the majority of his adult life screwing up every one of his relationships. After learning that he has a terminal illness, he regrets much of his past and is determined to rectify the issues that he has caused. His goal becomes to create a relationship, of any kind, before his ultimate demise. As he struggles to do this, he chooses to mentor an up-and-coming comedian, Ira Wright (Seth Rogen). Funny People tells the story of the comedians as they journey through what remains of Simmons’ life, the two form an interesting bond that will change them forever.

Sandler and Rogen (particularly Sandler) have been known for years to put smiles on the faces of their viewers, and providing some serious comedy. When audiences see both actors appearing together in Funny People, they expect a lot. The comedy that fans have come to expect from the two talented comedians is not what they get in Judd Apatow’s Funny People. Audiences have come to expect straightforward, but over-the-top, comedy that often demands hysterical laughter from those viewers. Apatow, with all of his genius, flips the script on the expectations and casts these actors in roles that, on the surface, appear to be out of their realm of abilities. He throws them into a script that is full of drama and raunchy, dry humor. It is completely unexpected coming from these actors and the slew of others that share the screen with Sandler and Rogen. As some of comedy’s biggest names pop up here and there throughout the film--including Jonah Hill (Leo Koenig), Leslie Mann (Laura) and Jason Schwartzmann (Mark Taylor Jackson)--audiences believe, more and more, that the outrageous comedy that often comes with these actors will ultimately surface and entertain audiences the way they originally expected. Still, the expectations are never met.

The humor is what clearly sets Funny People apart from the other films Rogen and Sandler have been a part of. As audiences come to the realization that the comedy they have come to love is not what Apatow has planned for the story, they begin to understand that the humor present in the film is beyond acceptable and beautifully brilliant. Sandler, Rogen and the rest of the cast perfectly embody their respective characters and deliver pure brilliance. Viewers quickly fall in love with what the cast and crew develop, and, regardless of the fact that Sandler and Rogen dial back their comedy, they are able to deliver numerous laughs and drama that is unparalleled throughout their careers. The unusual approach to comedy may turn some audiences off, but I promise that Funny People provides the endless laughs, just in a different capacity.

Much of the film tells the story of Simmons handing over the literal and hypothetical microphone to Ira as they prepare for life without Simmons. The changing of the guard is a pivotal theme in Funny People that mirrors the reality of the comedy scene in Hollywood. Around this period in time, Sandler was on his way out while Rogen was finding his footing better than ever. The choice Apatow made to incorporate real themes into his film brings it to life and allows it to resonate well with audiences. 

With all the positives, there are, unfortunately, negatives (it comes with the territory of filmmaking). The one issue that I can not get past is the horrible use of cameras. The unnecessary pans, the useless zooms and the seemingly too close over-the-shoulder shots are too often used and I struggled to understand the reasoning behind these shots. These choices, at times, make it difficult to follow the story and the dialogue as they are distracting and unappealing. 

Even with the ridiculousness that is the photography, Apatow and his crew are able to bring the terror attached to terminal illness and the veritable changing of the guard to life, intriguing audiences from beginning to end. The disappointment that stems from the anticipated comedy of Sandler and Rogen is enough to ruin the film for many, but those that are able to adapt and appreciate different levels of comedy can appreciate the layered and well-developed story. Funny People provides laughs and tears, and the story is emotionally draining. The story is the driving force behind Apatow’s Funny People and audiences should be able to appreciate the effort put into its development.

Written & Directed by Judd Apatow. Starring Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann, Eric Bana, Jonah Hill, etc. 




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