Funny People (Devil’s Advocates Review)
Judd Apatow is back with his third film at the director’s helm, though if you asked the average moviegoer they would tell you he does eight films a year (I’m pretty sure that’s what Tyler Perry averages, however), since you see his name attached to so many projects. How does this film hold up to the masterfully done 40 Year Old Virgin and the riotously funny Knocked Up?
Without hesitation I’d say this is an amusing movie. Not only is it amusing, but it has some genuinely tender and thoughtful moments. Unfortunately, it also has scenes that go into the “a bit too much” category. Not the “a bit too far” category (or as I like to call it the “Sacha Baron Cohen”category) but rather a category that represents the scenes that probably should’ve been cut for time sake. There are moments in the picture that do nothing for the overall story, and can actually be cited as slowing the natural progression of the plot. As humorous as some of these scenes might be, they would also make great outtakes or deleted scenes on the DVD.
As long as we’re discussing the length and girth (pun intended) of Funny People I think it’s important to discuss the romantic subplot that occupies the second half of the film. A while back I reviewed Australia (for my newspaper, since this site did not exist yet) and noted that it could have easily been broken into two films, based on what appeared to be the main plot in the first half and the secondary or subplot in the second. They didn’t coalesce well enough to make it one cohesive film. Funny People suffers from this as well, but wouldn’t be well received as two separate movies. Instead, the Apatow crew needed to make with the editing magic and weave the plot and subplot into something more substantial. Once Leslie Mann’s character starts getting more screen time, the dividing line is clear and after a certain point it becomes a waiting game. And no matter how appealing a movie is, feeling like you’re waiting for it to end indicates something about how it was crafted.
Even with a two hour and twenty six minute runtime, and a lack of scene trimming, there are points in which things develop at an unrealistic pace. Without giving away too much, Seth Rogen’s Ira Wright goes from being a jittery stage dud to an A-List opener with little to no effort, and in a short period of time. The assumption is that hanging with the gold standard of comedy (Adam Sandler’s George Simmons) would be enough to get Ira out of his rut. The audience, nevertheless, doesn’t really get to see the catalyst that begins Ira’s transformation. Something that I think would be more integral to the story than the weak romantic subplot.
From the superfluous to outright absent and the demarcation of the plot and the subplot, Funny People is that and that only. An ensemble cast of brilliantly comical individuals being funny. Unfortunately, the film is overly ambitious and tries to be too many things to too many people. My advice: know your audience.
As the Devil’s Advocate I give Funny People 2 1/2 pitchforks.
I did actually like the film, but not as much as previous Apatow installments. Rogen and Sandler played off of each other fantastically, which comes in big part from Apatow’s direction (Apatow can make the worst of enemies look like the best of friends on the big screen). Mrs. Apatow (Leslie Mann) is a standard player on an Apatow set (like Clint Howard in every Ron Howard movie), but she gets the job done. The jokes are played for laughs, but the movie manages to get you thinking about the conception and evolution of said jokes. A solid comedy with a satisfying pay off (though it takes a while to get there).
In reality I give Funny People 3 1/2 pitchforks.