Funny People movie review: Superstar comedian George Simmons (Adam Sandler) is ashamed of making crappy movies like My Best Friend is a Robot and, despite the brief pleasures of sleeping with random fans, still misses his now-married ex (Leslie Mann, great in an underwritten role). George then gets a jolt of perspective when he's diagnosed with a likely terminal form of leukemia, prompting the funnyman to hire aspiring comic Ira (Seth Rogen) as his joke-writer and personal assistant.
The buzz: Rest assured, Judd Apatow fans, that just because the writer-director's latest confronts the D-word doesn't mean Funny People has fewer penis-related jokes than usual. (There are actually more than ever, littered throughout the 146-minute movie.) Apatow's challenge with Funny People will be to prove—in moments demanding greater weight than anything in The 40-Year-Old Virgin or Knocked Up—that he can do drama with the same sharp, original voice he brings to comedy.
The verdict: Of course Funny People is funny; it wouldn't be a Judd Apatow movie without actors who turn self-deprecation and casual insults into hilarious venom. (The film takes a particularly delicious bite out of show business.) Yet Funny People doesn't know what to do with George's situation, particularly as his outlook improves, and turns Ira from a main character into a sidekick without his own arc. Tiptoeing around softened explorations of mortality and infidelity, Apatow shares his characters' tendency to employ humor as a defense mechanism—which, in this case, feels like a filmmaker stretching his legs without actually using them. The film asks to be seen as more than the sum of its laughs but can't come up with anything more profound than Don't know what you got 'til it's gone.
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