Sandler's a Stand Up Guy
So it is written and directed by Judd Apatow and stars Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen in amongst several familiar faces, and as such you couldn't be blamed if you thought "Funny People" was going to be another comedy which trades on crude humour. And in a way you would be a little right as "Funny People" does have it's share of crude humour but it is more than that as this is a movie which also has a dramatic underbelly, an actual meaning as it looks at a famous comedian who discovers he has an illness which could kill him. But these two sort of combine to make a very different sort of movie than you might be expecting and at almost 2 and a half hours a much longer movie than you probably expect. I say sort of combine as "Funny People" is a movie of 2 halves, a first half which is almost soul searching and then a second which is more in tune with what you probably expect except it ends up feeling like 2 movies slapped together making it over long and sadly drawn out.
George Simmons (Adam Sandler - You Don't Mess with the Zohan) is at the top of his game, he is a popular comedian who has fans both young and old as well as a stack of movies to make, he has it all. But George also finds he has something else, a rare form of Leukaemia and the odds are not in his favour. Whilst deciding to do a stand up comedy spot he meets Ira (Seth Rogen - Pineapple Express), a struggling comedian and offers him the chance of writing some jokes for him. That initial jobs turns into more as he becomes George's personal assistant and his only real friend in his surprisingly shallow life.
So as already mentioned "Funny People" is a movie of two halves and the first half is very different to what you probably are expecting as whilst it is full of comedy it is more about soul searching. In away it reminds me of the song "Smile" which Charlie Chaplin made famous as the lyrics "Smile though your heart is aching. Smile even though it's breaking" are basically how we see George Simmons as he deals with aggressive Leukaemia whilst trying to keep up his public persona. There is more to this first half than that and there is the friendship which forms between George and Ira as Ira goes from writing him jokes to being his personal assistant and on to being his best friend and confident. You warm to their strange friendship and enjoy the fact that Ira helps George grows as a person trying to make peace with friends and family as he battles his illness.
Now this first half may surprise many people as whilst there is plenty of humour, usually in the form of George or Ira doing stand up it feels very different to what you expect from Apatow and Sandler as it is more emotional drama. But it is very good and is made this good because of Sandler who whilst being funny also delivers the emotional drama of George facing up to death. To put it simply there are times in this first half that you forget that Sandler is a comedian and become wrapped up in the sorrow and loneliness his character is feeling. It makes you wish that Sandler would do more drama because he is very good at it.
Now half way through "Funny People" there is a perfect time to stop, it may have caused it to be a little cheesy but it would have come to a close quite nicely. Unfortunately we then get the 2nd half which in many ways is more typical of what you expect from Apatow and Sandler as George basically having made amends with his friends and family ends up trying to get together with his one true love Laura who is now married with kids. For me this second half whilst still builds upon the journey of George as he learns stuff about himself is not needed. It almost feels like it's been added on because fans of Apatow may have felt the first half lacked all the stupidity and crude humour that you expect. And so we get a girlie fight between two men, plenty of crude humour and quite simply a lot of stupidity but it not only jars with the beautiful emotional depth of the first half but drags things out.
Now "Funny People" is very much Adam Sandler's movie, we not only get plenty of his sort of humour but we also see what a good actor he can be when it comes to more dramatic and emotional scenes. And to be honest with Sandler and Apatow having been friends for years all the home video of Sandler when he was just starting out is a nice addition. Basically you see a different side to Adam Sandler in "Funny People" and it is one which makes you wish you could see a lot more of. But Sandler is aided by Seth Rogen who also shows his ability to do drama and it really adds something extra to the movie as whilst we still get the humour watching both Sandler and Rogen play characters with dimensions and flaws is far more entertaining.
What this all boils down to is that "Funny People" is a movie which is to be honest is annoying as the first half is brilliant and has real depth but then is spoiled by the second half which almost feels like a separate movie and causes things to drag on. Never the less, despite its problems "Funny People" does demonstrate one thing and that is Adam Sandler should be doing more drama because quite frankly he is good at it.