Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Movie Review: FUNNY PEOPLE (Universal, 2009)
To my great surprise, I liked Judd Apatow's first big hit, The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Those who know me will probably understand why I found Steve Carell's character in Virgin easy to empathize with. The raunchy humor, though, was something of a turn-off, so I passed on Apatow's subsequent films. Enough bouquets were tossed at Funny People, however, to convince me to give it a try. I talked Nicky into seeing it with me (that in itself should make Apatow proud!), but we both left the 2 1/2-hour film feeling disappointed and let down. Apatow appears to have been going for a more serious brand of pathos in crafting this story of George Simmons, a successful comedian who learns that he may have a terminal illness. The simple contrast between the self-absorbed, prickly Simmons (Adam Sandler) and the struggling young funnyman (Seth Rogen) whom Simmons hires to help him make a return to the "improv" circuit is, in fact, a promising setup for a meaningful study of how celebrity can corrupt and degrade a person, and it would have been ideal for a 90-minute movie. Apatow, however, lets a subplot spiral out of control and allows it to drag the characters through an additional hour's worth of tedium, leading to a far-too-predictable ending. The fact that Apatow produced a movie in which Adam Sandler actually looks like a halfway-decent actor should count for something, I suppose. Here is one instance, though, in which a movie fell short due to an excess of ambition (and, dare I say it, hubris?).