craftsman's latest marks a slight turn toward the serious, despite the
Sandler and Seth Rogen in the film.
Judd Apatow-directed movie “Funny People” (seen in the Just For Laughs
festival’s companion film festival July 25) is actually much more a
drama than a comedy, really. There’s plenty of funny dialogue and parts
of the story but it really is more about the hearts of the characters
who are trying to find their way.
It takes being faced with death for Adam Sandler’s character, George
Simmons, to get concerned with trying to do the right thing, or more
exactly, trying to live up to being an adult and caring about others in
his life. Not exactly light stuff.
But Apatow and company bring the audience into it by putting them in the
privileged position of getting a look into the life of a comedy
superstar like Sandler. His character is at least outwardly a version of
himself in the types of movies and performances he’s seen doing -- like
a CGI-dominated movie featuring an adult Sandler’s head on the body of a
baby, talking like a baby; and another concept comedy, “Merman,” where
effects give Sandler the lower half of a fish.
Of course, even with the palatial estate his stardom has bought him,
Simmons/Sandler isn’t happy, semi-showing off to co-star Seth Rogen how
easy it is for him to bed two women in one night. Shades of Elvis,
athletes and rock stars. But even more directly, scenes where Simmons
insist Rogen talk to him as he falls asleep come right out of Elvis’
story, as does Rogen status as Sandler’s joke writer/flunky. Here they
serve to make Simmons sympathetic through his vulnerability.
Still, the way the ending plot and emotional/romantic machinations play
out is a little overlong, with something missing in the way Leslie Mann,
Eric Bana and Adam Sandler play out how they really feel about each
other. Mann plays Sandler’s lover from years ago, now married to Bana
with two daughters. Maybe the actors actually aren’t onscreen enough
during these sequences, as the movie gets caught up in Rogen’s mad
pursuit of Mann and Bana to the airport.
“Funny People” has a beating heart to it, although it doesn’t quite
reach the all out hilarity, novelty and surprise of “The 40-Year-Old
Virgin” or “Knocked Up.” Give Apatow credit for crafting another good
movie, although let’s hope this doesn’t signal a Woody Allen-esque turn
to exclusively serious dramas.
“Funny People” opens
wide in theaters Friday, July 31.
For Laughs -- Montreal Comedy Festival coverage sponsored by
Eric & LaNita Hazard; Irving & Sonya Rozansky.