Funny People

By Genevieve Mc Bride

We all have our favorite Adam Sandler movies. There are the fans of The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates and there’s the loyal camp who can quote Happy Gilmore or Big Daddy verbatim. You hear the name Adam Sandler’s and you think goofy, lovable guy. Dependably funny and quotable, from the mid-90’s on, he was the go-to comedian when we looked for an easy laugh. Of late, with the growing list of popular movies under his belt, when you think goofy, lovable funny guy, another name comes up: Seth Rogan. In “Funny People” you get them both.

Sandler plays George Simmons, a popular comedian who’s diagnosed with a fatal disease. Playing a comedian is hardly a stretch for Sandler, but for one whose dramatic turns can be counted on one hand, he plays the stricken man who’s suddenly face to face with his immortality quite convincingly. Rogan is Ira Wright, a desperate young comic who’s still vying for stage time at the local comedy club. George, perhaps recognizing a bit of himself or seeing a glimmer of comedic genius in Ira after catching his act, hires Ira to write for him.

Ira goes from writer and personal assistant/confidante to opening act as he helps George deal with his illness. He encourages the veteran comedian to reconnect with his compatriots in the business, opening the film to a parade of old faces from the stand-up circuit. George’s reflections on his life eventually lead him back to a lost love, Laura, played by Leslie Mann. Amidst the funny, laugh-out-loud scenes, are some believably tender moments, not just between Mann and Sandler but also, oddly enough, Sandler and Rogan.

Directing the comedic duo is writer/director Judd Apatow, who gave Rogan that growing list of successful movies after first casting him in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Sandler could certainly use some of Apatow’s Midas-like touch after his recent string of marginal films. With a strong supporting cast of Jonah Hill and Jason Schwartzman who play Ira’s roommates Leo and Mark and Eric Bana, Laura’s husband, the movie is in turns hilarious and puzzling. The strong storyline of a veteran comedian taking a novice comic under his wings gets lost when George pursues a second chance with an unhappily married Laura. What could’ve been a touching passing of the torch tale is confused by an annoying love triangle. When the movie returns its focus to George and Ira, it’s saved, just barely, by the fact that we’re still watching two of comedy’s goofy, lovable funny guys.

3 out of 5 stars