The notion of what is funny on film has changed over the decades from the time of Chaplin to today. Back then, ol’ Charlie would just find the absurdity of life in small things. As movies moved into talking pictures, verbal gags began to overtake the physical, but the true masters still found a balance (i.e Abbott and Costello or The Three Stooges). The 60s and 70s saw movies entering into the world of double entendres and sex – and we never looked back.
So what happens when the kids raised on the comedies of the 70s and 80s grow up? They continue the trends in the movies we see in the late 90s and 2000s. The American Pie series helped our raunch needs, but a new comedy trend was on the rise. Those of us who were kids in the 80s were now adults and we wanted a mixture of the raunch with adult humor. We also wanted some dark humor. Ben Stiller led the charge and opened the doors for a steady stream of dependable comedies. Behind the scenes was Jud Apatow.
Apatow, much like Joss Whedon, struggled to find broad audiences for his material on TV, but he made some great cult classics. With his films, he has taken an aspect of life and looked at the details and absurdity of it. He doesn’t try to be raunchy; rather he lets the material stand with no apology.
So, opening day for Funny People had me meeting Heather, Lisa, David, and Ben at the AMC Altamonte for an afternoon matinee. The trailers were decent, as were our seats.
Funny People is about a comic (Adam Sandler) who has a terminal illness looking for a way to survive and an up-and-coming comic (Seth Rogen) who ends up taking care of Sandler. Yet the story was even more complex. Apatow chooses to also explore lost love and professional jealousies, and does so without cheating any of the subplots.
What really works is the amount of attention to making this as real as possible. By using footage of Adam Sandler’s early years and some of Leslie Mann’s first commercial gigs, the audience is able to have an instant connection with the characters. What could have been improved is the pacing of the second half – it was significantly slower than the first half.
My advice: good afternoon movie, full price if you have already seen Harry Potter……