With “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up,” writer/director Judd Apatow has already established himself as a very talented filmmaker, but Apatow cements that status with his latest work, “Funny People.”
Here’s a film full of rich characters who are interesting, funny and believable. It’s handled with great care by Apatow and the result is his best film to date. It’s also a quite deliberate, complex tale that works to near perfection in the very capable hands of Apatow.
Adam Sandler stars as George Simmons, a popular comedic actor who learns he has a terminal illness and his only chance of survival is an experimental medication that has a slim chance of success.
While undergoing the treatment, George decides to go back to his stand-up roots and meets an aspiring comic named Ira (Seth Rogen).
George decides to take Ira under his wing and the duo form a close bond.
For most films, that would be plenty of material to suffice the filmmaker, but “Funny People” goes further with Apatow exploring both leads’ relationships outside their budding friendship.
Some of the best scenes in the film come from Ira’s roommates (Jonah Hill and Jason Swartzman) and the rivalry on and off stage between the three aspiring comedians.
There is depth in George’s backstory as well, with the final act centering around the comedian’s attempt to reunite with an old flame (Leslie Mann) who is now married to an Australian businessman (Eric Bana).
With a running time of nearly 2 1/2 hours, there are some who might feel “Funny People” drags a bit - but I found it to be quite the opposite. With strong work from Sandler and Rogen anchoring the film, I was so caught up in the characters that the running time never seemed to be a burden in my eyes.
Others might be disappointed by a film titled “Funny People” that really isn’t as much of a comedy as one might think (there are still plenty of laughs, though). I was OK with that because “Funny People” is more about what happens after the laughter and less about the laughs.
DVD dandy of the week
If you are looking for a few more laughs in your bromance, then “I Love You, Man” (B) is the film for you.
Starring Apatow regulars Paul Rudd and Jason Segal, this is another smart, grown-up comedy that is right up there with Apatow’s three films.
Rudd stars as Peter, a successful businessman who is about to marry his lovely fiancee Zooey (Rashida Jones), but soon realizes he doesn’t have a best man.
Peter sets out to find a best friend and meets an eccentric investor named Sydney (Jason Segal). The duo immediately bond, but the more the friendship develops, the more it seems to take away from Peter’s relationship with Zooey.
Written by John Hamburg and Larry Levin, “I Love You, Man” has all the elements of an Apatow comedy with just as much success.
Rudd and Segal are two of the funnier actors today and play off each other well, but Jones shows she can hang with the boys, too, and is absolutely delightful.
There is also some nice supporting work from Jon Favreau, Jaime Pressly, Andy Samberg and J.K. Simmons.
“I Love You, Man” is rated R for pervasive language, including crude and sexual references, and will be available Tuesday on DVD.
— Sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton has a busy week of movie viewing planned - including a possible trip south to see the documentary “Tyson.” If you want to get his instant thoughts on “Tyson,” “G.I. Joe” or anything else he sees this week, you can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mcompton428. He’s also willing to communicate via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.