Directed by: Judd Apatow
Written by:Judd Apatow
Starring: Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann, Eric Bana, Jonah Hill, Jason Schwartzman
Released: September 10, 2009
Grade: B

George Simmons is one of the biggest comedic movie stars in the business.  He’s made a string of films which were huge smash hits at the box-office.  When George walks down the street, almost everyone recognises him.  They want to have their picture taken with him.  They want to grab an autograph.  They want to shake his hand.

I guess you could say art is imitating life in that Adam Sandler plays the role of George Simmons.  It’s a character he should be familiar with.  In fact, the opening scenes of the film are old home movie footage of Sandler performing prank phone calls.  These were taken many years ago by director Judd Apatow before Sandler became a household name.

The premise of Funny People is that George is going to die.  He’s been told by his doctor that he has a terminal illness and that there’s very little they can do.  George is prescribed some experimental medicine but advised that it has a less than 10% of making any difference.

As you’d expect, this news comes a huge shock.  It leaves George thinking about his life and all the things he wishes he could have achieved.  His biggest regret is that he let the love of his life slip through his fingers.  Her name Laura (Mann) and despite the fact that she is now married, he would like to win her back.

One of George’s other great loves is stand up comedy.  It’s how he started his career and it’s how he’s decided to finish it.  If he is to return to the comedy club scene, George realises that he needs help.  He needs someone to write some fresh, funny material.  At a local gig, he meets a struggling comedian by the name of Ira Wright (Rogen).  George sees potential in Ira and hires him as his personal assistant.

A rather odd relationship develops between the pair with each becoming reliant on the other.  Yes, they’re using each other for their work but their friendship seems to be more valuable.  George needs someone to confide in about his pain and suffering.  Ira needs someone to give him self-confidence and belief.  They’re a good pair.

There’s a lot to like about the movie and Judd Apatow is one of the hottest filmmakers in the business today.  His credits include The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up.  He also wrote the script for last year’s Pineapple Express.  This is an interesting story – much darker than his earlier works.  The stand up comedy scenes will make you laugh, as will the hilarious cameos.  Keep your eyes peeled for Eminem, Ray Romano, Andy Dick and James Taylor.

That said, this isn’t Apatow’s best film.  It’s too long at 146 minutes and some of the sub-plots were unnecessary.  Jason Schwartzman (Rushmore) plays Ira’s flatmate who has a starring role in a network sitcom.  We see clips of it occasionally and even go onto the set.  How this adds anything to the overall story is a mystery to me.

I’m also undecided about the film’s ending.  I hate taking about finales in my reviews (so as not to spoil it for viewers) so I’ll try to be cryptic.  Let’s just say that I’m not sure how I was supposed to feel about the George and Ira characters when the story wrapped up.  Did I like them or not?  I don’t know.

On that note, I’ll sign off and let you decide for yourself whether you wish to be entertained by these funny people.