FUNNY PEOPLE is multi-hyphenated film-maker, Judd Apatow's, attempt to move from frat-boy comedy to auteur status. It's not enough that he's written, produced or directed almost every successful Hollywood comedy of the past few years. He wants respect for something other than telling dick jokes and raking in the proverbial phat cash. In order to do this, he has made a self-referential movie about how success corrupts and ultimately does not satisfy, illustrating this with the relationship between Adam Sandler's successful Hollywood funny-man and Seth Rogen's aspiring stand-up comedian. Sandler's character treats women like shit, has no friends, has lost the love of his life by cheating on her and has lost the joy in writing comedy. When diagnosed with terminal illness he basically pays Seth Rogen's character to be his friend. And even Rogen's character, who is meant to be the moral compass of the film, back-stabs his room-mate to get the gig. And what of life in the real world? The "one who got away" is ready to trade in her husband and kids for a narcissistic dream of young love and a revitalised career. And even her husband is an arrogant schmuck. I mean, when you break it down, there aren't any pleasant characters in this movie. There's no one to root for, and no real self-discovery or improvement. Fundamentally, everyone is self-involved. And that isn't funny. It's depressing.
Granted, there are a lot of jokes in the film, and I did laugh a lot. Most of the humour was fairly lazy - the typical dick and wank jokes. The skits that really landed a punch were typically not the classic Apatow jokes - the German doctor was funny, as was Eminem in pure dead-pan satire. But there was way too much self-indulgent fluff involving Apatow gathering comedians he likes on screen and generally just schmoozing. You can see where the guy who had kids breakdown the narrative structure and comic breaks in STRIPES and THE JERK in FREAKS AND GEEKS would get off on this sort of fan-fic. But, as they say, there is nothing more boring then listening to someone else describe their dreams.
I was disappointed not to see a more savage breakdown of the Sandler-Hollywood-superstar persona. I've always found there to be something slightly sinister about Sandler's humour. PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE exploited that brilliantly. FUNNY PEOPLE doesn't really have the balls to try. On a more prosaic note, I thought the second half of the film, with the Star trying to break a marriage, was over-long, drifted and needed drastic editing down. Note to Judd Apatow - it is possible make a classic comedy that's 90 minutes long.
FUNNY PEOPLE was released in July in the US, Kazakhstan, Russia and Canada. It was released earlier in August in Egypt and Mexico. It opens in the UK on August 28th. It opens in September in the Netherlands, Iceland, Spain, Australia, Germany, New Zealand, the Czech Republic, Singapore and Romania. It opens in October in Greece, Estonia, Turkey, Belgium, France, Italy, Portugal, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. It opens on November 26th in Argentina and on December 3rd in Hungary.