Movie Review: Funny People

Funny people is a mildly funny movie with a cute storyline that is enjoyable to watch but has no long-term value of any kind.

Adam Sandler plays George Simmons, a star comedian who acts but also still takes on stand-up gigs. You might say that Adam Sandler plays Adam Sandler. He finds out that he has a rare blood disease, a kind of Leukemia, with no known cure and for which there are only experimental drugs available. The doctors advise him to get his affairs in order, but since there is little to lose, they start him on a regiment of treatments, hoping one will work. George, the true comedian that he is, keeps right on plugging. He takes a young upstart Ira (Seth Rogen) under his wing and teaches him the business. In the process the two become good friends.

There are a lot of funny vignettes where we observe Ira with his roommates, all trying to make a living as comics and actors with more of less success, all in the shadow of George, the superstar. Eventually George and Ira go to Marin County to visit George’s ex-girlfriend, now a happily married woman with two children. Things escalate in Marin, and I’ll leave the story here lest I spoil it for you.

The movie isn’t all bad, except the Marin scenes are way too long. The movie is a long 146 minutes, and the thing could easily be cut by 30 minutes taking out endless cutesy family TV watching, dinners and confrontations without losing any of the substance.  I noticed that “during Marin” we were fading out, getting another beer, going to the bathroom, and even thinking about abandoning the movie altogether. I hung in there, albeit bored by then.

The best scene in the movie is where George and Ira are hired by MySpace to do a stand-up routine during their company annual party. This, of course, is in 2008/2009, when MySpace was still a viable competitor to FaceBook. Before they are up, James Taylor, also hired by MySpace, plays a few songs. At one point Ira stands at a railing next to James Taylor, chatting while George is doing his routine. Trying to make meaningful small talk, Ira asks James Taylor if he ever gets tired of playing the same old songs? James Taylor looks at him for a split second and asks: “Do you ever get tired of talking about your cock?”

And this sums up the movie. The comedians talk incessantly about their cocks and balls, George Simmons is dealing with life-changing feelings when he gets sick, the “Marin scenes” are way too long, and we all get a good chuckle out of the whole thing.

Rating: *

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