d. Judd Apatow / USA / 2009 / 146 mins
Viewed at: Lecture Theatre 1 @ UEA (Norwich, UK)
You know what? Funny People is too long (what other dramedy runs for almost two and a half hours!?), and it really loses its way by the time it reaches the second half of what is an already uneven narrative.
Having said that, I’m starting to realise that I have a tendency towards emphasising the negative aspects of many films (some would say I’m cynical, but that’s a different argument). Anyway, I suspect that these tendencies are beginning to belie just how much I actually enjoy most of the films I see. (It’s been a long time since I saw a film I really hated. Actually it isn’t, I saw something a week ago that I despised, but I’ll leave that for a future update, since I’m still playing catchup.)
Anyway, in the spirit of seeing Funny People as ‘glass half full’ kind of film, I thought I’d attempt to summarize the bits which I really did like, as opposed to those I didn’t.
As you might expect from the excellent (if slightly overrated – sorry) Judd Apatow, Funny People contains some brilliant comedic set pieces and some absolutely genius one-liners. The much maligned Adam Sandler puts in a rather excellent performance, his best since Paul Thomas Anderson’s fantastic Punch Drunk Love (2002), and seems to have had fun deconstructing his own image as a lowest common denominator comedian with a penchant for the infantile.
Aww heck, who am I kidding? The glass is totally half empty. Funny People has some great one-liners, sure, but Apatow saw fit to trample all over them by including dialogue which served to explain the painfully obvious to all of us stupid idiots who haven’t the first clue about international geopolitics, social history and the world’s finest purveyor of flat-pack furniture.
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I give you, Exhibit A:
Now, why did we need the doctor to refer to Ikea at the end there? We all got the damn joke, and that extra non-line just cheapens it. To paraphrase a certain Charlie Brooker: if the material you have is good enough, and funny enough, it doesn’t matter if every single person gets every single joke. After all, how many people understand every single reference in Monty Python?
But worse was yet to come. In a bar, Adam Sandler’s character meets a girl who talks about going on ‘J-Dates’ after joining an online dating service specifically for Jews. When asked how it works, she mentions that there’s a big list, and you just pick the ones you want to date. With such a masterful buildup, Sandler drops the inevitable punchline: ‘I didn’t think Jewish people liked being on lists?’.
Hilarious right? Yeah, well it would have been if Apatow didn’t feel the need to insult our intelligence once again by having Sandler actually explain his joke, almost like he thinks that none of us have ever heard of Adolf Hitler.
But Funny People did make me laugh though, a lot, so I suppose it did its duty. And besides, it was good to see Eric Bana ‘acting’ Australian and doing comedy again after all these years.
There you go, I finished on a positive note. Now watch the damn trailer, whilst I go find my pipe and slippers and write some more letters of complaint!