GENRE: Bittersweet bromance
THE PITCH: Stand-up comic-turned-movie megastar George Simmons (Adam Sandler as a fictionalized version of himself) mentors aspiring comedian Ira Wright (Seth Rogen) after being diagnosed with a rare disease. Will George’s self-assessment inspire him to reconnect with his former fiancée Laura (Leslie Mann)?
MONEY SHOTS: The film’s best jokes are George’s horrible-looking fake movie hits such as the Splash-like Merman and the magic baby comedy Re-Do. Ira blubbers hilariously while meeting George at a diner. Laura proves to be a terrible liar at a dinner with George and her husband Clarke (Eric Bana). Clarke chases George around a yard when tempers fray.
BEST LINE: “She’s mousy — like a mouse you want to stick your dick in,” remarks Ira’s roommate Leo (Jonah Hill). The film’s comedians joke about almost nothing but genitalia, which indicates their emotional immaturity.
BEST BAD LINE: “So I guess we Wilco to the show together,” Ira says when he asks the “mousy” comedian (the amusing but underused Aubrey Plaza) to see Wilco. Also, Ira’s other roommate (Jason Schwartzman) stars on a lousy sitcom called “Yo, Teach!” where the quips are appropriately terrible.
WORST LINE: “How will you people live without me?” George croons in one of Sandler’s “funny” voices in an interminable show-closing song about his contempt for his audience.
PRODUCT PLACEMENT: George and Ira play a big comedy gig at a MySpace party, inspiring lots of gags at Craigslist and Facebook’s expense. Leo’s “Cute Cuddly Kittens” video gets 700,000 hits in four days on YouTube.
SOUNDTRACK: James Taylor’s “Going to Carolina” plays when Ira rides on George’s private plane to the MySpace party, which seems like an ironic gag until you actually see Taylor singing at the gig. Ira plays a clip of the late Warren Zevon’s “Keep Me in Your Heart for a While” to cheer up George, but it has the opposite effect.
FLESH FACTOR: George picks up a couple of groupies, whom we see in scanty bathing suits, then topless.
CAMEOS: George’s friends include the likes of Andy Dick, Norm MacDonald, Sarah Silverman, Dave Attell and Eminem, who complains at length about the price of fame.
SIX DEGREES OF APATOW: Zero, since it’s the third film Judd Apatow wrote and directed, following The 40 Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up. Apatow’s real wife and daughters play Laura and her kids, and a plot point involves one of the girls singing “Memory” from Cats. (Nepotism, much?)
THE BOTTOM LINE: Funny People captures life at the top and bottom rungs of Hollywood comedy, from open-mic nights to high-concept movies, and Sandler deserves credit for playing his alter ego as such a self-absorbed jerk. But if you’re not already a fan of Sandler’s humor, you won’t laugh that much, and Apatow somehow stretches the thin plot to two and a half dreary hours.