Harry reviews FUNNY PEOPLE...
The latest film from Judd Apatow is his least outrageous comedy yet. Most of the laughs come from the actual stand-up routines - with much of the real life... well, it reveals characters of a deeply flawed fashion. Seth Rogen's Ira Wright is a struggling mediocre talent living with two brighter and more successful comedic talents in Jonah Hill's Leo Koenig and Jason Schwartzman's Mark Taylor Jackson. Ira is filled with self-doubt and insecurity. He works a job he hates at a deli counter, and he desperately wants a break.
One night at the improv, the break arrives in the form of Adam Sandler's George Simmons. You see, George Simmons is one of those Comedy talents that was daring and badass and awesome in the beginning, but then as he matured, he went batnuts pansy ass and started making shit family films that suck the marrow from the hipbone of comedy. As if he hadn't already slit the throat of comedy, he has found that his own life is ebbing to a close... he has some form of deadly blood thing that is so far along that his only hope is experimental drug therapy. BUT - he it doesn't look good. Upon reviewing his life, he finds he misses the standup days of old.
So George decides to go back to the open mike. It just so happens he does so in-between Jonah Hill and Seth Rogen's routines... thus Jonah's LEO can claim he opened for George Simmons... and Ira Wright has to follow the Comedy Legend.
George's routine is terrible. Morose. Unfunny. If George hadn't already been given a death sentence, the crowd's silence was more than loud enough for him to hear. When he got off the stage, Seth's Ira takes the mike - and he's stunned. George had just committed comedy sepuku on stage and he had to give the comedic Eulogy - and it is brutal. Make no bones about it, Ira's eulogy of George Simmons' routine wasn't exactly funny, but it was dead on in terms of describing what had just happened on stage.
The next day, Ira gets a call from George asking that he and Leo write some material for an upcoming MYSPACE comedy gig he's doing. Ira claims that Leo is occupied, but that he's more than up to the task. To add insult to injury, he siphons off material from Leo that he then sells to George, but then, when George asks him to open for him... Ira uses all the material he'd just written for George, who gets up there and improvs up some other material and does well. But George likes Ira. Decides that Ira will become his new assistant. His new best friend. His professional companion.
From here, the film becomes about George's struggle with his medication, his condition, reconnecting to his lost love, Laura - played by the exceedingly adorable Leslie Mann - who has married Eric Bana.
Hijinks ensue - but throughout it all - it remains funny and on target. I think the only character that might make a worthwhile friend in the entire film is Jonah Hill's Leo Koenig. His code of friendship is pretty damn rock solid. Meanwhile, everyone else is kind of a whacked personality - all capable and seemingly eager to betray basic rules of friendship and common decency.
I like the film quite a bit. It has been ages since Sandler has been this good. Seriously. Ages. Seth Rogen is fucking rock solid as Ira Wright. It is a brave performance, brutally inept and constantly operating from the fear side of the Life Line. Giggle. But it is a great performance. Jason Schwartzman plays douche like nobody's business.
However, it is Torsten Voges as Dr. Lars - who completely steals the film for me. I recognized him right off as being one of the Nihilist from THE BIG LEBOWSKI - but Sandler and Rogen's ribbing is constantly funny, if only because of Torsten's uncomfortable reaction to their bullshit. He makes it real. At the party scene later, when he delivers the line he delivers. FUCKING FRIED GOLD!!! Torsten Voges is awesome! So Awesome!
This may not be Apatow's funniest film, but in many ways it is his best overall film. Janusz Kaminski's photography is really great. It is a very strong film. It is interesting to watch a maturing Apatow. I have a hope that he'll end up making a film that can stand up with some of the great comedy dramas like THE APARTMENT. He feels as though he wants to flirt with that kind of material... let's hope he gets there.