Funny People?


In Judd Apatow’s attempt at creating a comedic drama, we’re left trying hard to figure out if this movie is supposed to be funny and what Apatow is trying to say. Ira Wright (Seth Rogen) might be the only character with any semblance of moral decency, and even then, he dates a not-so-special girl with a track record of being slutty.

Terminally ill, George Simmons (Adam Sandler), one of Hollywood’s foremost comedians, lives in a continuous state of anger and bitterness (that precedes his diagnosis), and has no real reason to be that way. Taking on Ira as a protege/assistant after meeting him briefly at an improv show, the two develop a strained relationship. Simmons alludes to an abusive childhood–an abusive father, and yet his father comes to his side and supports him during the “final days” of his illness. The glimpse we get of his mother and sister disprove his whining, and they appear to be a loving family that he has alienated. Simmons appears to be nothing more than a petulant child. Simmons’ relationship with his family undermines his own description of them; contradiction is the most apparent theme in the film.

As usual, Sarah Silverman is raunchy and unfunny, and the other cameos in the film, made by some of the finest comedians around, are all very strange. Simmons makes it clear that he has no friends, and yet he seems to have a lot of friends. Despite being in the business, all of the comedians he knows appear to be loyal, but Simmons maintains his misery by claiming to be lonely.

The plot is formulaic: Guy+Major Event (sickness) = change in guy, and Apatow tries to put in a range of characters and scenarios to induce change in Simmons, but the overall message is lost, and it appears that Simmons doesn’t change at all. By the end of the film, he hasn’t made the right decisions. Even the secondary characters are insincere and contradictory because they are so flippant. Whereas Leslie Mann (Laura) has confessed her love to Simmons during the worst of his illness, she later changes her mind calling their history “just flirtation.” She cheapens the movie, and behaves as though her family (a husband and two little girls) is expendable.

The majority of the characters are comedians, but they are arguably unfunny. Wright’s roommates, who both seem to have successful careers, add nothing to the plot. They are excessive, annoying, and even mean. Ira observes George in his state of loneliness, which should be his motivation to hold fast to good and loyal friends, and yet he lives with two jerks and dates a girl who is one-dimensional and shallow. He has surrounded himself with people who have no morals, and he even admits it in his final comedy act in the film.

At 146 minutes, the film is far too long. By minute 100, the film has literally begun to meander down a meaningless path (shots of great scenery but no substance), and settling into a state of boredom, we wonder if “Funny People” should refer to the characters’ insipidness rather than their (non-existent) humor.

While the company was excellent (Ginny is a great date) and we had a lot of fun anyway, the film is one to avoid. Even the humor is immature (penis and fart jokes get old really quickly). It is a fruitless effort to create a thoughtful, meaningful film, and fails entirely.