What I dreaded just
from the title Funny People is this: that the name would
be some attempt at irony, that while the title was Funny
People it was actually about people who were all sad and
torn up inside. The crying-on-the-inside kind of clown. The
obviousness of the tortured soul, artiste trope. Turns out,
that's what it is. It's an insular, self-absorbed, schmaltzy
attempt at "serious" moviemaking. It's also as messy as the
bedsheets after Grandma rolls over on her colostomy bag.
Here's what good
comedians do well: they tell jokes and do funny shit like fall
down and bump into things. That's what we pay them for, and
it's a pretty damn good job. A hell of a lot better than working
the cash register at the Universal Gas Mart. Just like I don't
care if the guy working at the gas station really wants to be
a fighter pilot, I don't give a monkey's bazoom if writer/director
Apatow wants to be taken seriously. Just ring up my Icee, or
make me laugh, and keep your misery and aspirations to yourself.
I didn't pay to get them.
You know why? Because
like everyone else I've got my own fucking dreams and hopes.
It's pretty God damn presumptuous to think everyone else wants
to pay to hear about yours. Funny People isn't really
about the character's aspirations so much as it is about Apatow's
desire to be taken seriously, and about being so insulated in
a world of sycophants and think-alikes that he has no idea how
trite and shallow his deep thoughts come across. He has nobody
around him, apparently, that can think deeply and say, "Hey,
I don't think you're saying anything new or interesting here."
He tries, though. Good fucking God, he tries. For two and a
half hours. And he gets farther from a message the deeper it
The big ideas of
Funny People are that comedians aren't really as happy
as you might think. And that being rich and famous is hard.
Oh, boo-fucking-hoo. If you're rich and miserable, don't fucking
tell it to a poor person because he's poor and miserable. What
the fuck makes all these rich people think their misery is so
unique or profound? I'll tell you what: living in their isolated,
fancy suburbs and mansions, that's what. They're so God damned
isolated from the rest of us they think they're the only ones
with problems and they want us to pay ten bucks to hear about
them. Hey, irch assholes! We don't give the zit on a fat kid's
ass how sad you are driving your Bentleys. I'm sad riding a
bicycle here. You are showing us the side of comics we didn't
pay to see.
In Funny People,
Adam Sandler plays a wealthy, sour, dick-obsessed comic who
appears in shitty movies, like one where he plays a merman and
one where his adult head is transposed onto the body of a baby,
in all of which he makes babytalk. In other words, exactly the
sort of crap Sandler really does appear in. This leads me to
this question: in this movie he basically acknowledges that
most of his catalog is puerile shit, so what movie will he make
next? Anyway, the Sandler in this movie is a sad sack with a
mansion, no friends and now life-threatening leukemia. Seriously,
Apatow uses cancer to force Sandler to reconsider his life.
No sense in being subtle or original.
Once he learns he's
dying, Sandler pines for the olden days when he was actually
funny and no longer just a paycheck-cashing bad-movie whore.
He starts doing stand-up again and latches on to a young, struggling
comic. He wants to relive his early days of comedy, having romanticized
the struggle and the thrill of making people laugh when it was
still new and exciting, instead of a tedious chore. What the
movie never says is that Sandler made his shitty life, and had
he not been so greedy or insecure, he could still be doing comedy
just for fun. Some of us work that way.
After that setup,
and the introduction of some funny young comics, the movie goes
to shit. I still can't figure out why Funny People runs
nearly 150 minutes. There are too many scenes of good stand-up
and bad stand-up, neither of which is particularly compelling
in the movie. There is a scene shortly after the midpoint where
Sandler learns he won't die. The guy is such an asshole and
offers so little, though, that it's hard to care. He and most
of the cast act mopey and passive, because that's how Apatow
sees these sad clowns.
The revelation that
he will survive is followed by a dreadful bunch of cameos that
feel more like Apatow showing off who he can get to be in his
movie than anything organic to the story. Ray Romano, Eminem,
Sara Silverman, Dave Attelle and Norm MacDonald are among the
folks who pop in to crack one lame joke then disappear, as though
this "serious" drama-comedy has turned into one of those craptacular
Comedy Central roasts of Charo or Nipsy Russell.
After that scene,
you expect Sandler to redeem his life. He's supposed to say,
"I want to correct all my wrongs and be a better person." Apatow
doesn't write it this way, and credit to him for that. But actually,
this variation is worse. While it isn't a clichÈ for Sandler
to be irredeemable, it's unpleasant to watch. The movie veers
off into embarrassingly awful, pointless relationship bullshit.
He reconnects with his ex-flame (leslie Mann), of course, the
only girl he's ever loved. He hauls Rogen with him to San Francisco
to try and woo Mann away from her husband(Eric Bana), an insensitive,
philandering Australian who watches rugby and talk about the
women he'd like to fuck. While Rogen plays with the kids, Sandler
and Mann bone in a guesthouse, then Mann announces she'll leave
her husband. Rogen thinks this is a terrible idea and halfheartedly
tries to stop her, for the sake of her family and her two kids.
There is a shitload of confusion among the characters as to
whether Sandler is dying or recovering, which makes little sense
but is supposed to justify a lot of silly behavior. What comes
next is a bewildering personal drama with Mann not sure what
to do, guys acting all macho and punching each other, a lot
of unfunny yelling. Ultimately, she chooses to stay with her
husband because Sandler didn't cry when he watched a shitty
videotape of her daughter singing "Memories" from Cats.
This whole sequence
is brutal to watch because it is so unfunny, and the characters
and emotions are portrayed so amateurishly. Everyone comes across
as assholes, but also shallow, needy and easily influenced.
is someone trying to capture a part of his own life. Maybe it's
Apatow's early days when he used to travel around with and open
for Garry Shandling. Maybe it's Sandler and Apatow reminiscing
about when they were roommates before they made the big time.
Whatever it is, it they aren't nearly as interesting, original
or profound as they think they are. They are just comics who
tell dick jokes. Dick jokes are what they do best. And if they
don't want to tell dick jokes, or have run out of good ones,
maybe it's time to get off the stage. Two Fingers for
Oh yeah, I'm out
of town the next two weeks, so swear amongst yourselves.
to tell Filthy Something?