Are you a fan of Adam Sandler? How about Seth Rogen? Judd Apatow?
If you answered "yes" to any of the above questions, check your assumptions at the door before watching Funny People.
Guys like Sandler and Apatow seem to have painted themselves into a corner in certain ways. People expect certain things from each: Lots of toilet humour, fart jokes, ridiculous situations, and so on. Most importantly people go to those movies expecting to forget their problems and just laugh. Funny People, despite its title, is not one of those movies. Remember when Sandler did Punch-Drunk Love, and people didn't get it? This isn't "out there" like Punch-Drunk was, but it's no feel-good comedy either.
Sandler is George Simmons, a successful comic and movie actor who is famous around the same level as Sandler himself. He's just been diagnosed with a rare form of Leukemia. Not knowing what to do with what time he may have left, and not having any real true friends or relationships, Ira (Seth Rogen) suddenly appears in his life.
Ira is a struggling stand-up comedian who lives with two roommates played by Jonah Hill (once again playing his "mean fat guy" character) and Jason Schwartzman. Schwartzman is a semi-successful actor who has the lead role on a terrible kiddie sitcom called "Yo Teach!" He uses this success to belittle Ira whenever he can, who is still living on a pull-out bed.
Simmons takes Ira under his wing, hiring him as a writer and assistant, and eventually and reluctantly befriending him. Things begin to go awry when a lonely Simmons finally contacts the only woman he ever loved, and cheated on (Leslie Mann), who is now married (to Clarke, played by an unusually hilarious Eric Bana) with two kids (Mann's actual kids).
The movie is loaded with twists and turns that you don't expect on first viewing. Its emotions are heartfelt and genuine. It is not easy to watch at times. Special mention must go out to Sandler, who once again has proven that dramatic acting is not out of his reach. Sandler is perhaps more successful this time than he was in Punch-Drunk Love, an underrated if misunderstood film. Bana gets a medal of honour as well for being plain hilarious. Underwhelming this time is Rogen, who basically just keeps doing what he's always done. He plays the nice guy, nerdy, awkward, but everybody likes him anyway. Other special mention goes to Schwartzman who you may not even recognize at first due to his Jonas Brothers haircut.
One of the things I found most entertaining were the celebrity cameos, and there were far too many to mention, and also quite a few that I didn't catch the first time. Simmons being a famous star also has famous friends, like Andy Dick and Norm McDonald. Eminem and Ray Romano have quite a funny exchange. Surprise cameos from James Taylor (playing live) and Tom from MySpace (what the hell is Tom's last name anyway?) were very entertaining.
Judd Apatow broke a lot of new ground here for himself, at least in the realm of the motion picture. The emotions contained herein are not too dissimilar from his run on Freaks & Geeks, but vastly different from Knocked Up or The 40 Year Old Virgin. Yes, there are dick and fart jokes, but they are there more to break the tension rather than provide a backbone of comedy.
I highly recommend Funny People, especially this two-disc edition with an extended cut, lots of deleted scenes, a good gag reel, and some vintage, real Sandler prank phone calls. The soundtrack is fantastic, featuring the afformentioned James Taylor, Neil Diamond, Wilco, John Lennon, and many other classics. No Eminem though!
If this movie sounds like it's for you, and you want to see Sandler do something other than dress up as Zohan, then get Funny People.