Saturday, April 10, 2010

Funny People (2009)

His film career started with Going Overboard (1989), a movie set in a cruise ship teeming with Panamanian mercenaries, Miss Universe contestants and arthritic, aging tourists. What followed is a long chain of ugly, undeniably horrible movies: Shakes the Clown (1991), Airheads (1994), and The Waterboy (1998).

Last year, Adam Sandler surprised everyone by doing Funny People, a movie unlike his previous works. Sandler plays
George Simmons, an obnoxious, self-serving comedienne who — despite his life-threatening illness — still finds time to offend people.

“It's too early to know who's winning the fight,” Dr. Lars declares. “The medicine or the disease.”

George frowns. “Did anybody ever tell you, you have a very scary accent?”

“You are a very funny man,” Lars smiles. “I enjoy your movies.”

“And I enjoy all of your movies,” George answers.

“Which movies?”

“The ones where you try to kill Bruce Willis.”

Sandler shines in scenes like this and sucks in weepy, three-hankie sequences. Luckily, Funny People plays to Sandlers’ strength.

Writer-director Judd Apatow allowed Sandler, Seth Rogen (Ira Wright) and Jonah Hill (Leo Koenig) to do stand-up comedy with an actual live audience. They improvised and kept the punchlines rolling till the audience fell on the floor, laughing their uterus (and kidneys) out.

“I masturbate with hand cream I forget people use it for shit other than masturbating,” Ira declares.

The audience cheers.

Funny People isn’t just about green jokes and snide one-liners (“It's not my fault your grandpa is playing backgammon with Hitler!” Leo shouts). It has quiet, tender moments too, like the supermarket scene and George’s stand-up routine in the beginning.

“George Simmons will be gone,” he reveals. “And he's not going to miss any of you. We've always had a strained relationship. You wanted too much from me, and I'm very mad at you.”

It's disturbing how the line between reason and humor gets fuzzy in Funny People.
Even though George is dead serious, the audience claps and laughs like there's no tomorrow.