2 Stars - Shallow
Using humor to deal with life is a common defense. The problem is that hiding behind a humorous remark can be isolating and if done often enough will hamper the person’s emotional growth. Breaking through such a defense can be difficult, but in George Simmon’s (Adam Sandler) life, a rare form of leukemia provides such an opportunity. That is the tale told in Judd Apatow’s film “Funny People.”
Written and directed by Apatow (Knocked Up and The 40 Year Old Virgin), the problem with the film is not only its lack of depth but also its pervasive and overt sexual humor. This film is not for children or the sensitive adult viewer.
The two central characters are world famous comedian Simmon and Ira Wright (Seth Rogen), a young comic just starting out. At the peak of his career, Simmon is informed that he has a terminal disease and he reaches out to Ira in an attempt to have someone with him as he faces this difficult moment. They are polar opposites on virtually every level. Simmon is rich; Ira is poor. Simmon is successful; Ira volunteers his comedy. Simmon is self-centered and uses women; Ira is sensitive and respects women. But both struggle with life and both use humor to deal with it.
The central moral challenge for Simmon is finding the ability to love. Realizing that he has only loved one person in his life, he reconnects with her to ask for her forgiveness. Laura (Leslie Mann) is willing to do so. But she also offers him hope when she expresses her disappointment in her marriage with an unfaithful Aussie named Clarke (Eric Bana).
We won’t reveal how the story progresses except to say that it is predictable. But it is the shallow morality that is even more disappointing than the storyline. Though Ira serves as the conscience in the film, even his relationships are horribly lacking and anything but funny. This is especially true in his relationship with his roommates, Leo Koenig (Jonah Hill) and Mark Taylor Jackson (Jason Schwatzman).
“Funny People” has some funny moments, and Sandler is believable as a troubled comic, but the overall film lacks insight and is far too long. For viewers who like sexual humor it is a feast, but for the rest of us, it is a lengthy ordeal.
Discussion for those who have seen the film:
If you were told you had a terminal disease, who would be there for you?
The use of sexual language in both this film and “The Ugly Truth” assumes that audiences want to watch films in which people speak and act in this vulgar manner. Does this offend you or do you think the language we use does not matter?
The decision that Simmon and Laura make reveals a hope in restoring their lost love. Do you believe people can go back to former relationships? Why or why not?