Sunday, August 16, 2009

Funny People

Judd Apatow's latest movie is probably his most incestuous venture to date. Not only does it feature Apatow regulars Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill, but also his wife, Leslie Mann and two daughters, Iris and Maude have major roles as well. In addition, Apatow's former roommate Adam Sandler has the lead and the movie opens with home videos of a much younger Sandler as he egged on by Apatow who tapes him making prank phone calls.

If that weren't enough, Jason Schwartzman not only has a role in the film but composed the soundtrack and Eric Bana makes an appearance--an inside joke and nod to Apatow's Knocked Up where Rogen's character snarks, "If any of us get laid tonight, it's because of Eric Bana in Munich."

The film is a hybrid incorporating Apatow's classic testosterone-laced raunch with darker, deeper moments of introspection. Sandler does a fabulous job portraying the terminally-ill successful sellout George Simmons. Gone is the typical Sandlerisms of over the top shtick and silly voices and braying anger. Sandler plays a perfect Pagliacci here--his eyes welling up with pain at the news of his diagnosis, his numbness as he assimilates the news, unable to escape fans who hound him to pose for pictures.

Sandler's pain and regret are palpable and yet he is admirably understated. In addition to the opening prank call sequence, footage of the young Sandler is featured as George reviews his life and career. It's amazing to see Sandler as a youngster and to see how far he's come in his career.

Although Leslie Mann plays Laura, "the one who got away," the film is yet another "bromance" exploring the relationship between George, the successful movie star, and Ira (Seth Rogen), an up-and-coming comic. Rogen is far more earnest and winning in this role than in his other appearances. Sandler and Rogen play off each other with ease and make the somewhat meandering plot watchable.

Although it doesn't have the non-stop hilarity of Superbad, Funny People definitely mixes a lot of laughs in with the serious.

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