Funny People

Judd Apatow is pretty sneaky.

The director of Knocked Up and The 40-Year-Old Virgin (and producer of lots of other movies with Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill) makes movies with a message. And then he covers up that message with dirty jokes and men behaving badly.

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Last night, Alli and I got the chance to see his latest movie, Funny People, Apatow’s latest movie along those same lines, starring Adam Sandler and Judd’s regulars, Seth Rogen and [Mrs. Apatow] Leslie Mann.

Early on, the movie switches between following the glamorous life of Sandler’s George Simmons — a Hollywood funnyman who has enjoyed huge success from such stellar movie turns as a man/baby in Re-Do and a Merman in…um…Merman — and Rogen’s typical poor schlub Ira Wright, a struggling stand-up who lives with a terrible sitcom star (Jason Schwartzmann) and his funnier, more successful stand-up friend (Jonah Hill).

Simmons finds out he has a rare blood disease and decides to get back into stand-up where he got his start. There he crosses paths with Wright and he hires him to write some jokes for him. They strike up a friendship. And so it goes.

I have this theory that Judd Apatow is on a mission to turn all the fat, lazy schmucks of the world into decent human beings by luring them to his movies with the promise of lewd jokes and relatable characters and then hitting them in the face with [*GASP!*] a life lesson. The 40-year Old Virgin was about being OK with yourself. Knocked Up was about taking control of your life. And Funny People is about living life without regrets. It’s a thin line that Apatow walks between going completely over the line and too sentimental, but I think that’s the point because he might lose that whole generation of unaffected slackers if he didn’t push the limits of taste a little. OK, a lot.

Funny People is pretty ambitious. It deals with death, interpersonal relationships between friends, marriage, and happiness. But it’s also a love letter to stand-up comics, this group of tortured souls who have been so messed up in their lives that they can do nothing but try to make people laugh to try and get them to love them. To see the cameos of stand-up comics throughout is interesting — you realize that the community of comics is pretty tight. And they’ve all got issues.

Adam Sandler is really what makes this movie work though. He’s a pretty horrible guy who is completely believable, probably because he can relate to his George Simmons character so much. (Sidenote: the movie has sprinkles of Sandler and Apatow’s actual home movies from their early stand-up days, which is pretty genius.) You get a sense of the loneliness that Simmons feels and you almost feel bad for him, despite his reprehensible behavior.

In the end, I thought Funny People was a bit long (coming in at about 2 ½ hours). It needed to be tightened up and certainly could have lost the Rogen love interest storyline. It’s probably the least interesting subplot of the movie, but I’m fairly certain it stayed in the film because a studio exec wanted another female in the flick. It’s not a particularly bad subplot, it’s just unnecessary and could have been cut to keep the movie a little shorter.

This is not a movie I would recommend going to with your in-laws or youth group. The language is definitely Apatow-esque (it is about stand-up comics after all), but if you don’t mind it, I’d definitely recommend it. Especially if you’re on of those fat, lazy guys that Apatow’s trying to make into better men.