D/W: Judd Apatow. DP: Janusz Kaminski. Starring: Adam Sandler/Seth Rogen/Leslie Mann/Eric Bana/Jonah Hill/Jason Schwartzman/Aubrey Plaza/Maude Apatow/Iris Apatow.
The hype for this third directorship from Judd Apatow has been nothing short from what was expected after the monetary and creative success of his last two films, Knocked Up (2007) and The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005). Besides these two films, he has produced a slew of other recent films and continues to write.
However, his writing in Funny People struggles to find momentum and although it provides great comedic dynamics between struggling Ira (Rogen) and his roommates, Leo (Hill) and Mark (Schwartzman), the film lacks an interesting main story thread. Apatow surely means this thread to be the Rogen’s new personal/writing assistant gig to George Simmons (Sandler) and the pair’s relationship. However, their relationship takes too long to evolve. Sandler’s and Rogen’s toxic chemistry is genuine and is what keeps this film going despite its apparent dependence on dick jokes.
Bana is every bit the flawless asshole as Mann’s husband, Clarke, whose Australian charm is stripped from this character as he’s such a boring buffoon that hardly sees his wife you don’t feel sorry their marriage is falling apart. Even worse is the language he uses in front of his 6 and 10-year old daughters, of course they’re just words, but his delivery suggests a disregard for his role as father. Once again leaving the film’s emphasis on the marriage, not the family as a unit.
And family is what Apatow is about, using his two daughters again in his film. Both girls were previously in his film Knocked Up, opposite their mother Mann and Rogen. Mann’s doing her best here in Funny People and holds her ground despite her characters lack of development. But obviously, its comfortable for the couple to have their family on set, employ their children and keep things simple and easy. However, if it happens again it will feel old. And stale is never good in comedy.
Unfortunately, this comedy runs a bit too long, which is symptomatic of most Apatow films, and loses its momentum when family drama takes its main men out of Los Angeles and into scewed suburbia. The main men who carry the splotchy comedy that despite having hilarious jokes in it never really takes off or makes you care about these, well, funny people.