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Funny People

Funny People

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

SAY what you will about the hit-and-miss nature of the innumerable comedies that Judd Apatow has produced of late, when the man writes and directs the material as well he usually strikes box office gold.

Funny People, like The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, is a really great crowd-pleaser that competently mixes laugh-out loud comedy with genuine emotional investment.

A passion project for Apatow, it’s a film that’s populated by great characters and smart one-liners, that’s also capable of tugging at the heart-strings as well.

And somewhat incredibly, it doesn’t outstay its welcome even at close to two and a half hours!

When world-famous comedian and actor George Simmons (Adam Sandler) is diagnosed with a terminal illness, he recruits hopeful stand-up Ira (Seth Rogen) to write new material for him as he sets off on a farewell tour.

He also tries to right the wrongs of his failed relationship with significant ex Laura (Leslie Mann), even though she’s married to Clarke (Eric Bana). Matters become even more complicated, however, when George makes an unexpected recovery.

Apatow’s latest might not sound like the basis for a laughter riot but thanks to his skillful screenplay, which mixes bawdy adult humour with genuine emotional insight, it ensures there’ll almost always be a smile on your face throughout.

It’s also material that plays to the strengths of its talented ensemble, which again mixes seasoned Apatow regulars with a couple of welcome newcomers.

Sandler, in particular, thrives for the first time in ages, deftly mixing his comedic talent with the emotional intensity and range he has previously displayed in the likes of Punch Drunk Love and Right Over Me. The actor was a former roommate of Apatow’s while both were starting out and Funny People marks the long-held realisation of their ambition to work together. It was worth the wait!

Bana, on the other hand, crops up late on to provide a great deal of mirth as Sandler’s love rival, sporting his own native Australian accent and a genuine flair for comic timing (he started out as a stand-up in Oz).

Of the regulars, Rogen continues to grow in stature as an actor and is on fine form as ever, while Jonah Hill and Leslie Mann shine as always.

Several cameos, including a scene-stealing moment between Eminem and Ray Romano, also enliven proceedings, while the various scrapes and pithy conversations that Apatow allows his characters to indulge in continually yield pleasing results.

Admittedly, the first half of the film is stronger than the second, but you’ll enjoy experiencing the highs and lows of each character’s journey, while maybe even reflecting on your own similar experiences.

For another of Apatow’s strengths is in grounding his stories in a reality that’s easy to relate to, and which gives viewers plenty to consider afterwards.

Funny People is therefore highly recommended viewing that should leave you with a warm glow for some time afterwards…. not to mention a healthy supply of [admittedly rude] jokes!

Certificate: 15
Running time: 2hrs 26mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: January 18, 2010