The Apatow boys bro it out again in FUNNY PEOPLE
How many ways can men bond? They can bond over the effort of getting their friend laid (40 YEAR-OLD VIRGIN), or they can alternatively support and ridicule their friend as he struggles to do the right thing (KNOCKED UP), or they can fetch them diet cokes, cup their balls, and sit at their bedside while they fall asleep as in FUNNY PEOPLE. It’s been out for awhile now and I wasn’t compelled to see it until it was 90 degrees out yesterday and I sought the respite only an air-conditioned movie theater can provide, but I’m kind of glad I did. It stars Adam Sandler as George Simmons, an Adam Sandler-like comedian: middle-aged, ex-stand up comic earning an ample income making pandering comedies, and Seth Rogen as Ira, a struggling comic hired to be Simmons’ assistant. The pair develop that love/hate bro-relationship Apatow does so well, at one moment patting each other on the back and the next making fun of each other’s penis size.
Unlike Apatow’s previous films, the structure of FUNNY PEOPLE revolves less around plot and punch lines and focuses instead on the anatomy of the comic: his struggle, rise, and eventually, his decay. Simmons is definitely on the decay side of things. He’s dying from a blood disease and spends the majority of the film ruminating on all the mistakes he’s made in his life. In an effort to correct his biggest one he reconnects with an old flame, Laura (Leslie Mann), who now has a husband (Eric Bana) and two children (played by Apatow and Mann’s own daughters). The second half of the film is spent by Simmons basically camping out in Laura’s house, trying to win her back. And even though this sudden, heavy dose of domestic drama overpowers the fun bromance of the first half of the film, I appreciate the fact that Apatow doesn’t gloss over the big decision Simmons and Mann have to make (i.e breaking up a family), and shows it in all it’s meandering, unstructured and often drawn out practicality. However, it makes for a disjointed movie, more like two halves of two different films altogether.
Expect lots of funny stuff too, like the relationship between Ira and his two pathetic roommates played by Jonah Hill and Jason Schwartzman, who is remarkably adept at playing the asshole version of himself. His character is forever accidently leaving his big paychecks on Ira’s pillow or bragging about his head role on a laugh-track teenage sitcom called “Yo, Teach!” And it wouldn’t be a bromance without plenty of dick jokes, and there are certainly more than a few here. But perhaps this is more realistic than gratuitous. After all, this is a film about stand up comics, and if you’ve ever seen stand up, you know that dick jokes are prime source material.