Friday, July 31, 2009

Standing Up for Funny People

I' m talking about Funny People on air today. All in all I'm recommending the film. It's not without some faults, mainly the length and a distracting subplot about a failed relationship.

I say distracting because the best stuff of Funny People comes from the comedy. The craft of comedy. A love letter to the dented souls that decide to get up on stage and make other people laugh. This is director Judd Apatow's most personal film because a lot was taken from his own path. He was the guy, trying to break into the biz. And it was another famous name, Roseanne Barr, who gave him a leg up.

For comedians there's a smorgasbord of stuff here. The cameos are endless. At times it feels like the movie The Artisocrats . Sarah Silverman, Andy Dick, Ray Romano, Norm MacDonald, Paul Reiser (remember him?) and a even a blistering Eminem. No he's not a comedian, but he has one of the funniest moments in the film.

Now the movie is being advertised as an Adam Sandler film. There he is in the middle of the warm and fuzzy poster. But for me this was a Seth Rogen film. Yes, he's funny. There's a scene in a restaurant, where he tries to stop crying, scrunching up his face in a way that had me crying with laughter myself.

But it's also Rogen's mix of vulnerability and intelligence. He comes off as a smart but decent guy. Watching him slowly find his voice and grow as a performer is the best part of the film. Compared to that, Adam Sandler's bitter old rich guy falls a little flat.

One more thing, don't be fooled by the title or trailer, this is a movie with a serious side. With a soundtrack featuring Neil Diamond and James Taylor, you feel Judd Apatow is getting a little melancholy. With my preoccupation with trailers I find it interesting how the original trailer featured Sandler's character jamming with Wilco. The feeling is joyous and celebratory. In the movie we learn Sandler's character has actually paid Wilco, effectively renting them for a couple hours. It's small moment, but heartbreaking and a hint of the some of the darkness hiding under these Funny People. (By that way, the song Sandler's singing in the trailer is actually "Photograph" by Ringo Starr.)

Although it's lopsided, Funny People is worth seeing. For a big Hollywood release Judd Apatow has snuck in a lot of his own life on screen. Talking someone to sleep. A brush with death. The cruelness of crowds. All based on Judd Apatow's own experiences.

Hopefully the fans fall for Funny People the way I did.

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