This past weekend, I sat down and watched Funny People, which although I’ve seen in the past, I never truly took it all in. While Judd Apatow’s name is attached to a multitude of projects, Funny People is only the 3rd that he has written, directed and produced after 40-Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up. Apatow has produced a number of other films including Anchorman, Talladega Nights, Superbad, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Step Brothers, Pineapple Express, Get Him to the Greek and Bridesmaids. In addition, Apatow wrote, directed and produced the cult classic T.V. series’ Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared, both of which despite critical acclaim were cancelled after one season.
Funny People centers around George Simmons (Sandler), a rich and famous comedian who learns he has a terminal health condition, which is past the point of operation. Simmons has a desire to form a true friendship and takes Ira (Rogen), a young stand-up comedian under his wing. It also stars Apatow’s real-life spouse, Leslie Mann, as well as Jonah Hill, Jason Schwartzman and Eric Bana. Funny People represents Apatow’s most ambitious undertaking and he is able to strike a balance between heart and humor. Jason Schwartzman is hilarious as Rogen’s bigheaded b-lister roommate and Eric Bana steals the show as Mann’s husband. It’s alternately funny and dramatic and is more interesting and thought provoking than your average comedy.
With that being said, Funny People is far from flawless. It’s not a very tight film; actually on the contrary it’s a bit messy. While at times I think Apatow does a great job of toeing the line between comedy and drama, at the end I couldn’t help but feel like the film had a bit of an identity crisis and couldn’t decide whether it does in fact want to be a comedy or drama. It tries a bit too hard to be both and in the end, it doesn’t reach its full promise as neither is fully developed. Additionally, the film feels a little long for me as the theatrical version lasts 2 hours and 26 minutes and the unrated version 2 hours and 32 minutes and definitely dragged on a bit by the end.
Funny People is undoubtedly Apatow’s most mature work to date and at times it is truly wonderful. While cinematically it is far from perfect, it is an entertaining watch and certainly deserving of a viewing.