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PCR #488 (Vol. 10, No. 31). This edition is for the week of July 27--August 2, 2009.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"Funny People"

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

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"Funny People"  by Mike Smith
Another Year in the Trenches  by ED Tucker
Samurai Epic with Ozu Flavor  by Jason Fetters
At Least He Didn't Go Blind! .... Movie Notes .... About Time .... Passing On .... .... .... .... .... My Favorite Films, Part 2...  by Mike Smith
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Starring: Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann and Eric Bana
Directed by: Judd Apatow
Rated: R
Running Time: 2 hours 25 mins

Have you ever gone into a movie thinking you knew what was going to happen only to have it do a complete 180 on you? I mean, weren’t you literally knocked out of your chair when you found out that (SPOILER ALERT) Bruce Willis was dead, Norman Bates had too much in common with his mother and Darth Vader was Luke’s father? That is how I felt after watching “Funny People.”

George Simmons (Sandler) is the reigning comedy king. His stand up performances sell out and his movies rule the box office, even the ones that have him playing a baby or a Mer-man. A visit to his doctor reveals that he has contracted a rare form of leukemia and, despite a batch of experimental drugs, he probably doesn’t have long to live. This slap in the face by life forces George to re-access his own. And the journey he takes, filled with both laughter and tears, is not one to miss.

Judd Apatow has already made a name for himself in Hollywood after only two feature films. Both “The 40 Year Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up” were that Hollywood rarity, an adult comedy that not only went to the crotch but to the heart. Though the comparison is a bit of a stretch, Apatow is almost the direct descendant of James L. Brooks, responsible for such films as “Terms of Endearment” and the highly underrated “I’ll Do Anything,” as well as a producer on “The Simpsons.” Both men have a knack for bringing real life to the screen, and that knack is what keeps the audience coming back.

The film begins with early (late 80s) video of Sandler, then just a gawky kid, making prank phone calls. Even at this age we can see the comedian he will become. And the story, written by Apatow, is almost like a mini biography of the actor, kind of like an “All That Jazz” of comedy. Both men were roommates while struggling towards the big time, doing whatever they needed to do to get work. Rogen’s Ira is in a similar situation, sharing an apartment with his friends Leo (Jonah Hill), a fellow comedian and Mark (Jason Schwartzman), an actor who currently stars in the popular television program, “Yo Teach!” When George hires Ira to write for him and be his assistant, you can see that both men will view the opportunity differently. Where George just wants someone to talk to Ira looks at the position as a stepping stone. The film is full of funny moments, including some great comedic cameos. It’s also the first, and I’m going to guess only, time you may catch both James Taylor and Eminem in the same film. And who knew James Taylor was funny?

A subplot of George longing for the woman he lost a dozen years ago (Mann) takes the film to another level, one where now the tears outweigh the laughs. Though this plot is handled a little heavy handedly (the film’s almost two and a half hour running time doesn’t help), it is a true highlight of the film thanks to the performances. Mann (Mrs. Apatow in real life) gets to show not only her well known comedic side but her dramatic one as well. And she is assisted ably by her two daughters, Maude and Iris Apatow. Both girls seem to have inherited their parent’s gift for timing and steal each scene they’re in. And Bana, who played the Romulan bad guy in this summer’s “Star Trek,” surprises by not only being funny but by unveiling the Australian accent he has hidden from US audiences for years. It is this part of the film that grounds itself in the realities of life and where the film shines the most and where the message hits home. As Dolly Parton said in Steel Magnolias, “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion..”

If I have to find any fault with the film, it’s that it just seems to run a little too long. Other than that, it’s a perfect compliment to what is now the Apatow trilogy. On a scale of zero to four I give “Funny People”


This week's movie review of "Funny People" is ©2009 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2009, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2009 by Nolan B. Canova.