What are you laughing at?

Posted on 30 Jul 2009 at 4:57pm
By Arnold Wayne Jones Life+Style Editor

If you’re in a theater watching ‘Funny People,’ the answer is ‘not much’

Funny People • D
Director: Judd Apatow Cast: Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Eric Bana, Leslie Mann
Opens today in wide release • 2 hrs. 25 min. • R

Would that movie titles were as subject to the same truth in advertising and forced disclosures as prescription drugs. That way, "Funny People" would be compelled to change its name to "Unpleasantly Unfunny People," and be accompanied by warnings such as "may cause drowsiness" and "do not operate heavy machinery while watching." It could save lives!


THE MYSTERY OF ENDLESS RUDE: Adam Sandler, left, plays a dying comedian in more ways than one (pictured with humpy Eric Bana, center, and the unnervingly Shrek-like Seth Rogen).

Or at least save the two and a half hours — yes, hours! — that is takes the latest penile-preoccupied Judd Apatow crassfest to play itself out. "Funny People" is both sophomoric and soporific. This is only Apatow’s third film as a director (following "The 40 Year-Old Virgin" and "Knocked Up"), but his factory has churned out or influenced as much as a dozen more, each going for hard-R gross-out gags and oneupsmanship as essential elements of comic male-hetero bonding.

It’s odd that Apatow has so quickly trained his sights on the mawkish quasi-drama: the sad-clown tragedy. Here, it’s George Simmons, an Adam Sandler-like movie comic played by Adam Sandler. George is fatally ill, and hires an aspiring comic, Ira (Seth Rogen, who even 20 pounds lighter still looks like a paler version of Shrek), to be his gofer.

The film ends up as conventionally banal as the comedies Apatow and company have tried to subvert with their snarky humor. Like the sitcom Ira’s roommate stars in, "Funny People" plays like "a very special episode" of a series that has already jumped the shark. There are music montages, bad sex scenes, predictable plotting.

That only adds to the fart-sniffing self-indulgence of these films. Apatow casts his vaguely untalented wife (Leslie Mann, who plays a petulant bitch) and daughters in key roles, and seems to develop his characters around his actors (lots of references to Ira’s weight-loss, which mirrors Rogen’s). The effect is one of a glorified home movie.

No doubt there are some people who find endless snot jokes scattered among dopey scenes of medical experiments sweet and sad. I pity them.
"I laughed and cried equally," someone said to me. "I did too," I responded.
Zero on both counts.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 31, 2009.

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