By Emily Hoover | firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s apparent that slapstick legend Adam Sandler has grown up. It’s ironic, however, that he enlists Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill, the quintessential heroes of today’s American farce, to help in his latest film. Funny People is funny, sure, but it’s also personal and melancholy.
Judd Apatow, creator of such raunchy flicks as The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, intended to make a genuine film with Funny People, as it hits close to home for the writer and director as well as its star. Perhaps he achieved it, at least in the first half.
Sandler plays George Simmons, a narcissistic and friendless comedian who has traded the improvisational art of stand-up for the mediocrity of American cinema. Simmons soon learns that he has contracted a fatal blood disease that all of the flat-screen televisions in the world cannot cure. Everything stops. Simmons’ jokes become drier as the bitterness ensues. In an effort to save his career, he hires an assistant, Ira (Rogen). Ira, a struggling local comedian, is enamored with the idea of Simmons and his lavish and happy lifestyle.
The two develop a friendship, as Ira serves as Simmons’ only confidante. But when an old flame (Leslie Mann) runs to the emotional aid of Simmons, elements of truth and tragedy are hurriedly paired with silliness and predictability.
As always, Sandler is great. Although he is a comedic veteran seeking depth, he still incorporates the classic humor of such films as Big Daddy and Happy Gilmore into this film. Somehow, in playing a celebrity, Sandler achieves some sort of validity.
Even though Rogen has shed some weight, he still thrives on the fart and penis jokes that made him famous. Still, he is endearing as the comedic novice and solo companion to a dying man. Jonah Hill plays Rogen’s roommate, ultimately the same character as he usually plays, but his performance continues to produce plenty of knee-slappers.
Apatow is exploring the duality of happiness in Funny People, and to some degree, he makes a point. Simmons was dead before his diagnosis; he was impossible in life and hilarious on the stage until placed in a life-altering situation. Unfortunately, Funny People dies in its climax, as the latter half drags out, accentuating its 134-minute timeframe. It becomes a battle for the married ex-girlfriend and loses its spark, slowly digressing. Yet, with its insight into fame and familiar faces, it tries to teach a lesson and showcase a moral. Laughter may not be the best medicine, but it hasn’t claimed any deaths.