I paid for my first Adam Sandler film this week. That’s right, I never spent any of my hard earned money on Billy Madison or Happy Gilmour. I missed The Wedding Singer on the big screen and never bothered to mess with The Zohan. But there was something about Funny People that made me want to catch this comedy in theatres. Maybe it was that the film was clearly a little more mature then the typical Adam Sandler fare. Maybe it was because of director Judd Apatow’s solid pedigree of The 40 Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up. Whatever the case, something about Funny People finally got me to spend money on Adam Sandler. And it was almost worth it.
Funny People, which stars Sandler as an ailing comedian named George Miller, and Seth Rogen as Ira Wright, an aspiring comic himself and Miller’s assistant, is a strange kind of movie. I want to recommend it to people, because I laughed pretty hard for two thirds of the film. Sandler’s performance is excellent, and shows he has better acting chops than most people (including myself) ever give him credit for. Rogen is also solid, a mix of naiveté and determination as his character attempts to make a name for himself. It was also fun pointing out the various comedy icons who pop up throughout the flick (out of everyone who appears, the one who caught me by surprise the most was Paul Reiser. Yes, Paul Reiser. Don’t ask me why).
The movie is a bit of an inside look at Hollywood and the comedy business, which doesn’t really play well at the box office and may explain why Funny People underperformed on its opening weekend, bringing in less than $24 million. If you’re into that style of film though, the first 90 minutes of Funny People are very entertaining and downright hilarious at times. It’s not as raunchy as either of Apatow’s previous films, but there’s nothing wrong with that. The director is stretching and does so admirably.
That is, until you get to the final third of Funny People. I can’t recall the last time I literally felt the life get sucked out of a film like it did when the tone and story shifted to the romantic aspect between Sandler’s character and the girl that got away, played by Leslie Mann. Mann is a funny actress who does her best with what she had to work with (and who also happens to be Apatow’s wife). However, the laughs are in short supply at this point and there’s hardly any dramatic tension. Even an appearance by the great Eric Bana can’t save the final 45 minutes of Funny People from its tedious nature. I can’t believe I’m admitting this, but it was so bad I actually dashed out of the theatre for 60 seconds because I had had to much pop to drink. Normally I wouldn’t share this sort of information but I think it highlights just how boring this final part of Funny People was. In any other situation I can think of where I’ve been faced with a similar situation, I’ve waited until the end of whatever film I’m watching. Comfort be damned – I’m not missing a thing. But not this time. And when I came back to my seat I asked my wife if I did indeed miss anything funny or important. Her response:
Funny People gets back on track in its last 15 minutes, but it’s almost too late at that point. Ultimately, I think I would recommend waiting for it to hit DVD. Sandler will still shine, the funny parts will still be funny and you’ll be able to fast forward through the 45 minutes of film that I found so painful.
At the very least, you’ll be able to hit pause if you need to go to washroom.