The last few projects from writer/director/producer/comedy guru Judd Apatow (Knocked Up, The 40-Year-Old Virgin) have been well-received by critics and audiences alike. Funny People is a bit of a departure from the formula established in the other two movies directed by Apatow. The end result is his most polarizing movie yet.
Adam Sandler (Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison) stars as George Simmons. Simmons is a hugely successful comedian and actor who receives some bleak medical news early in the movie. This role was written with Sandler in mind, and his own film career somewhat parallels that of this character. After getting the bad news from his physician Simmons realizes that the last several years of his career have been incredibly unfulfilling.
Seth Rogen (Pineapple Express, Observe and Report) is Ira Wright, a struggling comedian Simmons takes on as his assistant. Rogen lives with Leo and Mark, played by Jonah Hill (Superbad, The Invention of Lying) and Jason Schwartzman (Bored to Death, I Heart Huckabees) in excellent supporting roles. Schwartzman’s narcissistic D-level actor who is very proud of his starring role in the hilariously awful Yo Teach…! steals every scene he is in. Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation, Mystery Team) is underused as a love interest for Wright. Aziz Ansari Parks and Recreation, I Love You, Man) shines as Randy, the hyperactive, raunchy comic who actually has a feature length film in development with Apatow. The supporting cast is definitely a strong point of this movie.
This movie runs about 25 minutes too long, which is a real shame because it does a lot of things really well. Simmons and Wright go on a road trip to visit Simmons’ ex-girlfriend who he still has feelings for. Apatow’s wife Leslie Mann (17 Again, Knocked Up) plays Laura, and Apatow’s two daughters play Laura’s children. This entire final portion of the movie feels a bit like a tacked-on Apatow family showcase. Having said that, Eric Bana (The Time Traveler’s Wife, Munich) plays Laura’s Australian husband, and he does not disappoint in this rare chance to display his comedic chops.
This release is loaded with special features. An unrated, extended cut of the movie is included along with the theatrical release. The unrated cut just extends some scenes and is entertaining but not too much of a departure from the theatrical release. It runs seven minutes longer than the original version. Two gag reels, deleted and alternate scenes, and a commentary featuring Apatow, Sandler, and Rogen are all included. Additionally, a feature called Line-O-Rama is outstanding as it features some of the movie's funniest scenes, with the actors ad-libbing punch lines rapid fire. There are four documentaries in this release, one of them chronicling the career of the fictional comedian Randy, played by Ansari. Another documentary is about Apatow’s high school radio show that featured interviews with many famous comedians. The Funny People Diaries is a four-part documentary which delves into the filmmaking process.
Funny People is a very polarizing movie. People I have talked to who saw the movie in theaters either love it or really dislike it. It has real characters and an engaging plot. Watching Simmons' relationship with Wright blossom over the course of the movie as he comes to terms with his own mortality is a real treat. Sandler hasn’t looked this good in years. While full of humorous moments, it lacks some of the over-the-top hilarious moments that Apatow fans may have come to expect from his movies. However, this movie is extremely honest, and that is becoming more and more of a rare commodity.