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Moving, touching and yes, Funny drama from Apatow, Rogen and Sandler.,
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This review is from: Funny People [DVD]  (DVD)
I'm not the type that cares too much for the likes of Judd Apatow vehicles like Superbad, Knocked Up etc. I think many people just seemed to jump on the bandwagon, though with close scrutiny they are hardly great films. However Funny People is a different beast, Apatow released a film that would not prove as popular (you just need to look at the box office figures), perhaps this was likely though given the subject matter of terminal illness, but it is easily his best film and if you give it a go you will find a profound and extremely funny drama.
The story is pretty simple, Adam Sandler's George Simmons, a successful stand-up comedian and actor's life changes when he is diagnosed with a form of leukemia, he then takes on amateur stand-up Ira Wright (Seth Rogen) as his assistant and to help write jokes for him while he continues to struggle with his illness. It's all very personal stuff from Apatow and it's clear from the start that Simmons is the most human and believable character Sandler has ever played. What follows is a series of fantastic stand-up scenes full of dick jokes and some great moments in Ira's apartment with his roommates Jonah Hill (excellent in this and check out his recent film Cyrus) and Jason Schwartzman has some great lines as a slimy sitcom star trying to beat Ira to his crush Daisy, played wonderfully deadpan by newcomer Aubrey Plaza.
It's refreshing to see a film where no shortcuts are taken, Apatow explores many dark corners and faces everything head-on but it is gladly never approached in a smug or self-indulgent way, examples are an emotionally crushing sequence where Ira tries to cheer up George by making him a iPod playlist and when George tries to salvage some kind of human connection by meeting with his estranged family members.
Clocking in at around two and half hours however, Funny People slightly outstays its welcome which is a shame as it perhaps takes the gloss off what is an absolute treat. The final half hour is easily the weakest, where the duo visit George's ex-wife Laura (Leslie Mann, very good) whom he still has feelings for but is complicated by the fact she has kids with her new husband Clarke, played by a totally unrestrained Eric Bana (great seeing him in a role like this and it's obvious he had a blast with the material). However, the whole part just drags on and feels a bit forced.
The final word has to go the performances of the central pair who are excellent. Seth Rogen is very impressive and it's good to see him a lot more dialled down and actually funny to watch. Adam Sandler is in absolutely superb, career-best, Oscar-worthy form as Simmons, mixing emotional weight and comedy to perfect effect, how he didn't at least get a nomination is beyond me. Maybe the Academy couldn't see beyond the dick jokes.
Not many people caught Funny People at the cinema but if you are willing to give it a try you will not regret it, worth seeing alone for the stand-up scenes and a string of excellent cameos (James Taylor, Eminem, Ray Romano) but it is also a great drama. I have to say however, as good as he is in this I find it disappointing to see Adam Sandler continue to do rubbish like Bedtime Stories and Grown Ups, it's obvious he never learned anything from the experience of this film but viewers definitely can.