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Movie Review: "Funny People"

Reviewed By: John Devore

Directed By: Judd Apatow

The Skinny: Perpetually stoned, blundering Seth Rogen stars opposite a miscast Adam Sandler as a struggling amateur comedian helping an egotistical superstar deal with his unexpected cancer diagnosis in this penis-joke flavored, seriocomic epic by frat boy sentimentalist Judd Apatow. Lessons are learned, guts are busted, and tears are jerked.

The Good: For fans of genital zingers, some good news: you will laugh, heartily. The movie is replete with excellent one-liners about kaknbawls, shaft unt bulbs, Mr. P and the Holy Rollers. It’s an embarrassment of riches. And of course, these jokes are delivered by a cast who could make reading the menu at Taco Bell hilarious. Besides Rogen, and Sandler (who can rarely do wrong in a comedy; melodrama not so much,) the dependable Jonah Hill and emo Jason Schwartzman make-a da funny. Surprisingly, Eric Bana shows up far too late and is a riot as a blockheaded Aussie. You have to admire Bana for popping up randomly in movies like Funny People and Star Trek and not trying to showboat or steal thunder, just doing his job and, you know, acting. Leslie Mann is likewise funny, hot.

The Bad: There’s an ancient gypsy curse that goes: title your movie “Funny People,” get reviews from critics that say “Unfunny People.” But in this case, all of the people actually IN Funny People all live up to the titles promise. Nothing else really does. At a self-indulgent two hours and a half, Funny People wants to be a brave, rambunctious meditation on mortality, but writer-director Apatow lacks the emotional vocabulary to reach those heights. Funny People succeeds when it’s only goal is to make you choke on Orange Crush, but it fails when it demands you consider your own humanity. It’s utterly unlike Apatow’s previous almost-classics like 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked-up, two movies that successfully balance the profane and the precious. Maybe if the movie starred a Robert Downey Jr type instead of Adam Sandler, the cancer plot would have been funnier or more moving. Did I mention its 150 minutes long? That you’ll laugh, and then for twenty minutes you’ll feel like a prisoner of war struggling to find your “happy place?”

One Other Thing: If you liked Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, you might like Funny People. Basically, Funny People is a Michael Bay comedy. Transformers offered fleeting moments of robot carnage, interrupted by meaningless “plot.” I felt the same way about Funny People. Only instead of robots, it’s zipperwurst howlers.

Movie theater, DVD, or TNT in Five Years: See it, but bring a comic book.