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Funny People–The Latest From Comedy King Judd Apatow

By Jerry Cutler
Judd Apatow has given us two films under one title, Funny People.  The first half, the funnier of the two, is about three offbeat driven characters whose daily life is consumed with show business.

 Lee, a hilarious Jonah Hill and Ira (Seth Rogen) are unemployed wannabe writer/comedians and Mark (Jason Schwartzman) is a regular on a TV series who flaunts his good fortune in the face of his annoyed roommates.  George Simmons (Adam Sandler) is a highly successful comedian who has just been told that he has a rare form of leukemia and will soon die if the experimental drugs he is given are not effective.

 George is impressed when he sees Ira perform at the Improv and hires him to write jokes and be his flunky.  The job isn’t easy as Ira must endure verbal insults and literally baby sit and talk to him as George, overwrought and bitter with the prospect of dying at the pinnacle of his career, tries to sleep. But at $1,500 a week, Ira, who works part time at a deli-counter, doesn’t complain.

 The humor of the standup performers centers around the groin area which obviously fascinates Apatow who seems to be obsessed by penises or is it, peni?  Whichever, there were gaggles of laughter from the preview audience whenever a joke, regardless how silly or filthy, would scratch the surface.

Apatow, who wrote and directed Funny People, garnering a large industry following thanks to his past substantial efforts, The 40 Year Old Virgin, and Knocked Up, uses many celebrities in cameo roles including, Andy Dick.

 All the central characters were wonderful but it is in the less funny and seemingly much longer second half of the film that Sandler and Rogen shine.  

As mega personality George, Sandler is very much at ease with playing a more serious role especially when Laura (Leslie Mann) a former love, reenters his life.  It is here that Apatow, in an effort to make a somber statement about fame, mortality, love lost and faithful friends, loses focus and the screenplay meanders into an area best served for another film.  

 One must credit his direction, however, as Sandler and especially, the warm hearted and caring Rogen, are terrific.  

With a running time of nearly two and a half hours, some judicious editing might have helped, but it would be difficult to edit Apatow’s extremely talented wife (Mann) and his two precious and equally adept daughters.  

Kudos to newcomer Aubrey Plaza, a wry comedic addition to the “House of Apatow.”

2 and 1/2 Bagels out of 4

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