-A backstage look at stand-up comedians: CHECK
-References to Delaware: CHECK
-Jokes about mainstream teen sitcoms: CHECK
-A heart-wrenching look into the lonely life of a celebrity comedian: …huh?
When it comes to Adam Sandler starring in his few “dramedies,” I usually watch these films like one would watch a Slinky. It seems like it’s going to be really entertaining, but ends up a bit anti-climactic. Then you slap yourself in the face for wasting that little bit of time and money in your life. Then, a few years later, you find that Slinky again and say, “Hey, let me give this another shot,” but get the same result. Then a few years later…well, you get the picture.
So it’s been with films like Punch Drunk Love and Click. They were good tries, but something always seemed to go wrong. Click was a little too vanilla, and took itself too seriously. Punch Drunk Love was too hard to follow to complete the full extent of the comedy. And yet, I can’t not watch these movies if they randomly come on, whether it be on television or someone’s DVD player.
So when I heard that Adam Sandler was giving it another try with Funny People, I was a bit excited. I thought, “Finally, he’s gonna dooo it!”
The previews showed the film to be a bit dark, but it was a Judd Apatow movie, complete with Seth Rogen and that fat guy from Superbad. This can’t lose.
And you know what? It didn’t lose.
The premise is relatively simple. Adam Sandler plays George Simmons, a stand-up comedian turned Hollywood mega-star. Upon learning that he has a rare and lethal disease, he begins a journey of deterioration to vent about his misfortune, without actually telling anyone about it. This leads to some very dark and unfunny stand-up acts. Seth Rogen plays Ira Wright, a fledgling stand-up comic who does open mic nights and sleeps on the couch of the apartment that he shares with Jason Schwartzman, who broke into Hollywood with a sitcom everyone loves to hate, “Yo Teach,” and Jonah Hill, who is on a little higher tier in the comedy world than Ira.
Simmons hires Ira as a joke writer and personal assistant, and takes the young comic into the world of celebridom, with all of its quirks. A “bromance” seems to ensue, except on the occasion that Simmons reminds Ira that he just works for him when he’s getting really crabby.
The story, for the most part, flows fairly well. Those of us not in the limelight are able to perceive what happens behind that bright light that star comedians shine in, for better or for worse. The dramatic intent of Simmons’ illness is also very well done. It is because of this foil that we truly care about him and the people he cares about. When we see how lonely Simmons is due to a lack of real relationships with real people, it tugs at the heart-strings. We also see the back-drop of the stand-up comedy world, which helps you appreciate it a little bit more. Granted, it was no Punchline with Tom Hanks, but it was good enough.
The problem seems to be the romantic involvement. In the movie, Simmons contacts his old flame Laura, played by Leslie Mann. This in itself is not the problem. It helps steer the drama. The problem is that it drags on way too long. This movie is almost 2-1/2 hours. About 20 minutes could have been cut from the climactic finale of the Simmons/Laura story to keep the audience from falling asleep. Yes, it was that bad. Not bad enough to ruin the movie as a whole, but it sure came close.
I think the comedy of the movie suffered because of this drag. Yes, I did laugh at quite a few scenes, but I seemed to have forgotten that I had laughed at all. References to the “Yo Teach” sitcom and the visits to the doctor’s office were some of the most memorable.
All in all, I give this movie 3-1/2 out of 5 references to my junk. You’ll understand when you go see it, as well you should.