Now Funny People isn't necessarily too long. The real reason behind why the last 60 minutes has everyone talking is the fact that it's a completely separate film from the first 90 minutes. It's as though Judd Apatow was reaching for the stars, but somehow landed on the moon. To put that in English, Funny People is a very good movie that should be great.
However, Apatow has nothing to be ashamed of here. He should be proud of his ambitious and daring new film that sets the bar for any other aspiring filmmaker living in the Apatow universe. Starring Adam Sandler in his best performance ever, Apatow seems to have created a co-autobiographical story about the real life Sandler and himself. Roommates in college, the two have expressed that the character of George Simmons (played by Sandler) is like a nightmare of what their lives could have been like without their wives and children. Interestingly enough, Simmons's love interest is played by Apatow's wife Leslie Mann, whose kids in the movie are their very own (just like in Knocked Up). With his life and soul literally invested into this project, this is his most mature and thought-provoking film yet.
No one else can play George Simmons other than Adam Sandler. This is his movie. Simmons is a very rich comedian who discovers that he is dying from a rare form on leukemia. He meets a young and upcoming comedian named Ira Wright (Seth Rogen) whom he asks to write jokes for him. Ira immediately accepts, and the two begin a friendship through immature jokes and their relatable profession. Jonah Hill and Jason Schwartzman are hilarious as Ira's roommates, who provide the nostalgic presences of two well-known actors getting plenty of moments to shine. When Rogen, Hill, and Schwartzmann riff off each other during their scenes together, it's like the feeling of something special happening. Funny People is ahead of its time, and it will likely be cherished as time progresses.
Perhaps this is why people aren't lining up right away to see this. What, did you not want to see drama? Is that it? Well, too bad. Funny People is both a comedy and drama, split right down the middle. Would you rather have everyone play it safe and return to the same old formula? Maybe Sandler is tired of playing the moron. Maybe Seth Rogen lost weight because he wanted to get healthy. Maybe Leslie Mann can actually act instead of just being Judd Apatow's wife. Maybe people should stop complaining about dramatic elements in a comedy (if all you want is a hilarious raunchfest, go see The Hangover again).
Or maybe we should realize that a film is not all about box-office receipts. A $23 million opening for a film like this is an absolute success. I'm not talking about its budget (reportedly around $75 million) but its subject matter. Sandler's three other "dramatic" movies, Punch Drunk Love, Reign Over Me and Spanglish, all underperformed at the box-office. Funny People is the most complex performance of Sandler's career. Perhaps this is another case of bad marketing. Maybe studios should start selling their movies based on what they really are. Perhaps this is why people aren't lining up right away to see this.
Funny People is a film to admire. Apatow is pushing real hard to establish himself as an auteur, and while there are flaws and mishaps along the way, it's also the work of a born filmmaker. We are at an age now where ambition is overlooked and giving into social pressure is acceptable. Apatow, keep doing your thing. And bring your college roommate, your family, and your friends along with you (and maybe Eric Bana once-in-a-while. He's hysterical in this film!) After all, you guys really are funny people.