The news of a new Judd Apatow film is always welcome. He has only directed three films, but between that and his producing credits he has created a track record for himself. There is something about the way he brings characters to life, either through his words, or through carefully choosing and involving himself in the scripts he produces. Each of his three films have been uproariously funny, heartfelt, and emotional, and utterly raunchy, not to mention his ability to draw out fine performances from his cast (including his own personal stable of actor friends). Funny People is no different. It feels distinctly like an Apatow creation, but there is something else to it — and yet trying to nail it down is like trying to hit a moving target.
Funny People is an interesting film. There is something about the way the film flows that makes it feel a bit different from either The 40 Year Old Virgin or Knocked Up. This one seems to be a bit more personal to Apatow and the people involved. You see, in addition to being about relationships and coming of age, it is also about dealing with the immediate reality of death and how brushes with it can change a person. Going even beyond that, this movie is something of an insider look at comedy as a profession, with looks at both ends of the spectrum.
The story attacks its topic from two perspectives. The primary thread follows George Simmons (Adam Sandler), a character whose life, in many ways, is not dissimilar to that of the man playing him. He is a superstar of the silver screen, a man who has worked his way up through the stand-up crowd to become a man beloved by the masses for his goofy movies. From there, the similarities begin to wane, but I would not be surprised to learn there is more truth to it than we may think.
Anyway, we learn right off that Simmons has a rare blood disease, a form of leukemia, with little hope for recovery. This news hits him like a ton of bricks. He goes back to the stand-up stage, but with considerably darker material. He is clearly having trouble processing the news and his efforts to do so lead him to Ira Wright (Seth Rogen), an up and coming comedian who is starstruck when he first meets his idol. Simmons hires Wright to pen some jokes and perform assistant duties, which makes him the de facto confidant to Simmons' health issues.