Release Date: July 31st, 2009
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George Simmons(Adam Sandler) is a highly successful stand-up comedian who branched off to make a slew of funny and famous movies. Everything seems to be going god for George until he goes in for a check-up at his doctor's office. While there, George learns that he has a rare blood disease that is like leukemia which is killing him. The disease is past the point of surgery or chemotherapy but the doctor prescribes some experimental medication. The medication only has an 8% success rate which doesn't give George much hope. George goes home and slips into a depression, reflecting on his life and how truly unhappy he was with it. George finds solace in old videos of his stand-up performances and decides to go back to the small clubs he once performed at.
Ira Wright(Seth Rogen) is a struggling stand-up comedian who works at a local deli to make money. Ira shares an apartment with his friends Leo(Jonah Hill), who is a stand-up comedian enjoying a little more success than Ira, and Mark(Jason Schwartzman) who is an actor on a semi-popular t.v. show called Yo Teach!. While Ira is at a comedy club he is excited to learn that one of the acts didn't show up so Ira gets 10 minuets on stage. As he is about to go on, George Simmons shows up and Ira gets bumped. George delivers a humorous set but slowly makes it darker and more depressing the longer he goes on, which doesn't go over well with the crowd. Ira performs after George and experiences his own difficulties with the crowd but manages to raise some laughs by making fun of George's set. When Ira leaves the club he notices George is parked next to him so close that Ira can't get into his car. When Ira goes to ask George to move, George tells Ira that he is funny and drives away in a furry almost hitting Ira, who doesn't realize that George was being rude to him, thinking it was just George trying to be funny.
The next day, George calls Ira and says he liked Ira's set and that he also liked Leo's jokes, who performed before George. George asks Ira and Leo to both right jokes for him. Ira immediately agrees but lies to George and tells him that Leo is busy and doesn't want to do it. George picks up Ira and takes him to a MySpace event. George asked Ira to write him some jokes about MySpace so he could use them at the show. While at the show, George tells Ira to open for him. Ira, o didn't write any jokes for himself, ends up using the MySpace jokes he wrote for George which angers George. Both comedians get good reviews from the crowd and George decides to hire Ira as a full time assistant and joke writer. The two go back to George's house where they party with some girls before George asks Ira to talk him to sleep.
In the morning, George tells Ira about his condition explaining that he only told Ira because he doesn't know him well. George then tells Ira not to tell anybody but Ira ends up telling his roommates Leo and Mark anyways. The two begin working on their stand-up routines and going to different clubs with Ira opening for George. Ira begins to become more comfortable on stage while writing jokes for George. George begins to feel the impact of his sickness and the medication and tells Ira he needs to go to the doctor right away. The doctor takes some samples of George's blood and informs George that they will have his results in a few days. Afterward George and Ira go to a restaurant where Ira breaks down and starts crying, telling George that he needs to tell other people about his sickness. George reluctantly agrees inviting friends like Andy Dick and Paul Reiser to talk. George even invites his sister and his divorced parents over, whom he hasn't had much contact with over the years. George is shocked when his ex-fiance, Laura(Leslie Mann) arrives at his house to see him. Laura broke it off with George when she found out he was cheating on her. The two talk and George learns of Laura's two daughters, Ingrid and Mable, and of her husband of 12 years, Clarke(Eric Bana), an Australian salesman. Like George, Clarke is also cheating on Laura which has made Laura's life miserable.
Ira invites George to Thanksgiving dinner at his apartment with Leo, Mark and the cast of Yo Teach!. George begins mingling with the guests and then asks Leo why he was too busy to write jokes for him which causes Leo to go off on Ira. The two have a heated argument which George calms down before they eat. Afterward, Mark offers Leo a role on Yo Teach! which Leo takes out of spite to make Ira mad. The next day George and Ira go to the doctor who has the results of George's blood work. The doctor reminds George that there is an 8% success rate with the medication and that George is now in the 8% group. The doctor said there were no traces of the disease in George's blood but also tells him not to get over confident because there is a chance the disease could show up again. Ira is floored by the good news while George, who was ready to die, is unsure about what he wants to do with his life. George realizes that he wants to take a break from movies and wants to settle down and have a long term relationship. George calls Laura but can't bring himself to tell her about his health improvement.
George and Ira travel to San Francisco to perform at the Orpheum. George invites Laura who goes back stage before the show to see George who again can not bring himself to tell her he is better. George tells Ira that he has to tell her during the intermission between George and Ira's set. Ira reluctantly agrees and tells Laura about George during intermission. Laura is speechless and confronts George after the show telling him that she was happy and invites both him and Ira back to her house. While there, they meet Laura's daughter's and the whole group has a good time together. Laura tells Ira that she and George are going to buy groceries so she can cook for them. When they leave the house Laura drags George into the guest where they have sex. While in the guest house, George shows Laura a collage reel of all her acting performances and brings out a pair of jeans that Laura used to love. They two go back into the house and are confronted by Ira who asks why they don't have any groceries. Laura tells him that she decided to order pizza. Ira immediately sees through the lie and confronts George about them having sex. George tells the truth and Ira becomes extremely nervous believing that Clarke is going to come and kill them.
While the group is waiting for the pizza Clarke unexpectedly comes home and surprises the group, leading to an awkward first encounter. Clarke insists that Ira and George stay for dinner. Laura tells George and Ira that they have to keep pretending that George is sick because that is the only reason Clarke likes George and if he finds out he isn't sick he will get suspicious. After dinner, Clarke believes that George and Ira are too drunk to drive home and insists that they stay in the guest house. The next morning, George and Ira get ready to leave and say their goodbyes to the family. Clarke gives George a tearful hug goodbye when Ingrid and Mable, who were told earlier by Ira, tell Clarke that George isn't sick anymore. Clarke then confronts Laura about it and suspects her of cheating on him. Laura then confronts Clarke about cheating on her and Clarke storms off to the airport. Laura tells Ira and George that she is going to go to the airport later and tell Clarke to find a new place to lie when he comes back from his trip. Laura starts planning on being with George and Ira insists on the two of them leaving, telling George that his happiness isn't worth breaking up the family. George becomes angry with Ira and threatens to fire him and Ira shuts up.
Laura drive to the airport intending to break it off with Clarke but the Clarke wants to give their marriage another shot and the two make up. Ira tells George he is going to buy some cigarettes but instead goes to the airport to stop Laura from ending it with Clarke. When he sees them making up, Ira attempts to sneak away but is caught by Clarke. Ira tells them the truth and Clarke realizes that George is at his house with Ingrid and Mable and vows to kill him. Laura yells at Ira for screwing things up and tells him to get out of her life. Clarke finds George watching t.v. with the girls and tells him to go outside where he begins to attack George. During the fight Ira jumps in to help George who intentionally punches Ira in the face calling him a backstabber and a snitch. After the fight, George begs Laura to tell Clarke that she loves him more, but Laura refuses. Clarke then thinks that all this trouble is his fault and that it is karma for the way he has been acting. Clarke apologizes to George and him and Laura go back into the house. On their way back to Los Angeles, George becomes infuriated with Ira and ends up actually firing him. Ira gets mad at George and tells him that he has learned absolutely nothing from his near-death experience and is still the same miserable person he was before got sick.
Back at his apartment, Mark offers Ira a spot on Yo Teach! if one ever comes up, but Ira declines and goes back to work at the deli he worked at before. George and Ira bump into each other at a comedy club a few weeks later and George watches Ira, now more comfortable on stage. George arrives at the deli the next day and asks Ira to take a break and talk with him. George tells Ira that even though he isn't sick anymore, he still needs to drastically change his attitude. In a show of good spirits and a willingness to change, George gives Ira some jokes that he wrote that he thinks will help Ira's routine on stage.
Funny People is the third film from funny man director Judd Apatow(Knocked Up, The 40-Year-Old Virgin) and it is definitely one of his better films. Apatow does a brave and complicated thing with this movie. He takes multiple funny comedians and actors that are known for their over-the-top antics and puts them in a funny yet surprisingly sad and serious film. Sandler plays the perfect role of a comedian turned famous actor faced with the looming prospect of death. The character of George Simmons seemed to be custom tailored to mirror Sandler's life. Sandler himself was a stand-up comedian who gained fame and became a productive actor which is exactly same as his character George Simmons. Apatow and Sandler also did an interesting yet effective thing by adding actual footage of Sandler doing stand-up at various points in his life which was coordinated into the film nicely.
However, Sandler wasn't alone in this movie. He was supported by a cast filled with comedic geniuses and all around funny actors. I really enjoyed Seth Rogen's character who, for the first time, didn't play a burnt out stoner. Rogen showed that his acting abilities went further than portraying the typical pot smoking loser and that he could handle a role that required more of his acting skills. Sandler and Rogen seemed to have a good chemistry between them. Their respective characters seemed to fit well together with one being the star struck, struggling comedian and the other being a sort of inspirational figure to the other. And even though they only played minor parts, the roles of Jason Schwartzman and Jonah Hill were also very good. Their parts really added to the down and out sense of Rogen's character, especially with Schwartzman flaunting his big paycheck and semi-celebrity status in front of Rogen all the time.
But what I really liked most about this movie was how Apatow took these really funny actors and made a serious movie with them. Typically when one thinks of an Adam Sandler movie, films like Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison, or The Waterboy come to mind. All of these movies have one thing in common and that is Sandler's performance. In a majority of his movies Sandler plays a hysterically over-the-top character who is fueled by energetic and crazy outbursts. However, it seems that Sandler is attempting to broaden his repertoire by tackling more serious roles.
This film is deceiving in the sense that from the previews you think it is going to be another typical Adam Sandler movie. However when you watch it you get so much more than that. While Sandler's traditional goofiness is prevalent throughout the film, we also get a taste of the more serious side of Sandler which is where I think this movie really excels. Sandler does an incredible job of making the audience break down and feel for his character. His loneliness, his desperate love for the girl who got away and the looming threat of death are all aspects that Sandler really does a great job in portraying. It is definitely a new and refreshing side to the actor that we have only see in maybe one or two other movies.
This movie is a must see. Rogen and Sandler have a great chemistry and the supporting cast really play their roles with conviction. Apatow is proving that he knows how to direct and even shows that he can direct big name stars as well as he can to the lesser known ones. If you are a fan of Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Judd Apatow, or any of the other great actors/actresses than Funny People is sure to tickle your liking. Definitely one of Sandler's best films. I give Funny People 8 Scary German Accents out of 10.
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