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Published on July 27th, 2009 | by Sharilyn Johnson


Review: Funny People

There will be a hundred reviews of Funny People coming out in the next 7 days talking about the plot and the characters and all the regular stuff that goes into a movie review. I won’t bore you with that.

What readers of a comedy news site want to know is: how does the film portray comedy?

I was naturally skeptical. I was on the fence up until about a month ago, when the clips I’d seen and interviews I’d read made me confident that the portrayal of the comedy world was in good hands.

It succeeds. It’s accurate. But it could have succeeded more.

For all the hype surrounding the standup aspect of the film (Sandler going back on stage to prepare, Jonah Hill learning how to do standup as research), there isn’t a lot in the film about the profession. There are a few scenes shot in the back room of the Comedy & Magic Club. Rogan’s character gets bumped for a drop-in celeb. The guys sitting around writing… the competitiveness… it’s all real, real, real.

funnypeopleThe standup performances themselves felt real too, which was a relief. Well written, well paced, well delivered. Rogan and Jonah Hill’s characters are still new to the game, and thus dick jokes dominate. They both pulled off that new-but-promising feel that you’re occasionally lucky enough to witness at an open mic. In line with his character, Sandler’s act feels like that of a veteran’s.

Those small details aren’t instrumental to the story, though, so the comedy only serves as a colourful backdrop. It’s less of a movie about comedy, and more of a moving about people struggling to realize their individual dreams.

I was worried going into it that Sandler’s angst-ridden character would play into the tortured-clown stereotype. But it wasn’t overdone, and he didn’t strike me as any more flawed or conflicted as any other lead character in a film like this.

It’s long, it does try to accomplish an awful lot, but I have only 2 minor complaints about it overall:

1) I ask this question hopefully: is Judd Apatow running out of family members to put in his films? Please say he is. Leslie Mann is welcomed in everything because she’s talented. But the sheer volume of screentime Apatow gives to his own kids (who play his wife’s character’s kids… got it?) is bordering ridiculous. They’re adorable and all, but an extended home movie of the one kid singing in her school musical? After you chopped the restaurant scene all to hell? Really? That’s the most blatant spawn-pimping I’ve seen in ages, and I watch Toddlers & Tiaras.

2) Did every shot inside inside Sandler’s house need to include as many of the he’s-a-movie-star props as humanly possible? Yes, Judd, we see the Emmys and the posters for his fake movies on the wall… because they’re in the centre of the frame, in perfect focus. Is the set decorator a relative too?

I enjoyed the film and look forward to seeing it again. The story is compelling enough, the performances are great. And, get this: it’s really damn funny. But for comedy nerds, it might fall short of expectations.

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About the Author

is the author of the book Bears & Balls: The Colbert Report A-Z. Called "one of the city’s most discriminating comedy critics” by NOW Magazine, Sharilyn has been covering comedy for longer than she cares to admit. She served as the comedy reporter for Winnipeg's Uptown Magazine for five years, and was the host of the radio show Laugh Tracks for three seasons. Her work has also appeared in the Toronto Star, the Winnipeg Free Press, The Apiary, and on CBC Radio's national comedy programs LOL and Definitely Not the Opera.

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