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Movie Rewind: Funny People who also happen to be Sad

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Funny People

Funny People / 2 hours 20 minutes / Rated R

Funny People is presented as potentially being a bittersweet (and hilarious) tale of redemption, rediscovery and reinvention centering around an individual who thought he had everything, believed he was going to lose it all, and found himself a second chance at lost love.

It is not that. Not really.

If you’ve heard about Funny People from your friends, coworkers or family members, it’s likely that it has been one of two extremes – it was great or it was horrible.  I’d offer that a lot of what leads to those responses is what expectations you have going into the film.

If you have seen Judd Apatow’s two other movies that he wrote and directed – Knocked Up and the 40-Year-Old Virgin – and are expecting the same sort of thing out of Funny People, you will probably feel cheated by it.  It just doesn’t fit the mold and has a distinct feel to it that places it far afield from those two films.  The lowbrow humor is not the focus, but rather the backdrop.

If you go into it expecting nothing (the ideal approach for all movies) or expect the kind of film suggested by all of the trailers (both the funny and sad ones), you will probably walk away satisfied.  It feels autobiographical and genuine.  It is funny yet poignant.  It goes beyond the Superbadness of Jonah Hill, avoids making a porno with Seth Rogan and Adam Sandler doesn’t speak a bit of Spanglish. The acting chops of Rogan and Sandler in particular are actually impressive, if not somewhat surprising considering their respective bodies of work.

There are moments that are sure to cause uproarious laughter, but they all don’t quite hit the same way for everyone.  There are some jokes that require close attention to detail and some rapid connection-making to experience the payoff.  Some of the humor may just fall flat with the more conservative moviegoer, but that is to be expected from any film involving any two members of this cast.  Of course, there are some real gems that are likely to make it into casual conversation, as the temptation to bogart the Harry Potter jokes may be too much for some to resist.

For all of the humor and all of the laughter, there’s enough sadness to balance things out and help shape a more somber tone – one that calls to mind thoughts of one’s own mortality and the kind of legacy that would be left behind. It sounds a lot heavier than it is, as the film takes you on this journey in a very humane sort of way by lightening the darkness with the sort of hilarity one would expect out of Apatow & Co.

You’ll have to shell out your $8 to see what I mean. It suffices to say that it is not another clear-cut comedy with the best scenes spoiled in the previews, but a complex study of the entire range of contemporary relationships and how one should measure success.

I walked away satisfied, because I feel I got it. The end may upset some, confuse others, but really – I couldn’t have seen it ending any other way.

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Written by Jonathan Hutcheson

August 9, 2009 at 8:27 pm

Posted in Films

Tagged with , , , , ,

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