Real funny

Funny People mixes comedy and drama and comes up with something resembling real life

ALL SMILES <br> Adam Sandler (left) and Seth Rogen team up to tell jokes and make sense out of life in <i>Funny People</i>.

Adam Sandler (left) and Seth Rogen team up to tell jokes and make sense out of life in Funny People.

Funny People Starring Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen and Leslie Mann. Directed by Judd Apatow. Feather River Cinemas, Paradise Cinema 7 and Tinseltown. Rated R.
Rated 4.0

Judd Apatow has this knack for being able to portray (as a writer and director) real people in real situations. The hilarity that ensues, then, may be stupid and juvenile, but it’s based in reality, rather than merely being slapstick. In Funny People, he delivers us an Adam Sandler we haven’t seen since Punch Drunk Love. Likewise, here’s an Apatow that shows us he’s got a place in his heart for drama.

Funny People is at once a story about comedians, mortality and love. So it isn’t all funny, as the title might imply; in fact, there’s a fine comedy-drama balancing act being played out by the main characters.

Sandler’s George Simmons is almost like a big-screen version of the actor himself, which makes his character feel really authentic. He’s a famous comedian who has done all manner of silly movies but has recently discovered he has a rare blood disease and might not have long to live. This deadline on life gives him renewed vigor, and he returns to the standup circuit, where he encounters newbie comedian Ira Wright (Seth Rogen). He likes Wright’s stuff and hires him to write jokes.

Much of the film revolves around the relationship that develops between George and Ira—and their relationships with other people, many of them either celebrities or wannabe celebrities. Some side humor is provided by Jason Schwartzman, who plays a perfectly arrogant B-TV star, while Apatow fave Jonah Hill’s character tries to climb to his heights. Again, when Hill makes a crack about Ira losing 20 pounds and no longer looking funny (Rogen himself lost at least 20 pounds since filming Pineapple Express), it makes the whole thing feel authentic, like real life on screen.

The third wheel in this bromance is Laura (Leslie Mann), the “one who got away.” She and George reconnect because of his sickness and they rekindle a small flame, which is threatened by her strong Australian husband, Clarke (Eric Bana). A side visit to Laura and Clarke’s Northern California home, while pivotal to the story, adds about 45 minutes to the already long screen time.

George’s illness is what brings all the comedy down to earth—he’s still a joker, but his performances get darker, his demeanor less animated. This is where Sandler shines, showing he—like his character—is more than Billy Madison or Happy Gilmore. He’s a real actor, and entertainer, capable of nuances that are beyond the silliness he usually provides. Rogen, too, gets a chance to step off the standup stage and show his sensitive side (tears and all).

The end result is a film that’s really about life, friendship, what matters. And the fact that Apatow was able to make that kind of movie as funny as it is, is a testament to his ability to portray what’s real on screen.