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Movie Review

Funny People

MPAA Rating: R for language and crude sexual humor throughout, and some sexuality.

Reviewed by: Daniel Thompson
CONTRIBUTOR

Extremely Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Comedy, Drama
Length:
2 hr. 16 min.
Year of Release:
2009
USA Release:
July 31, 2009 (wide—3,000 theaters)
DVD: November 24, 2009
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Relevant Issues
Copyright, Universal Pictures

Death in the Bible

NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCES—Who is the being of light encountered in near-death experiences? Answer

Where did cancer come from? Answer

How did bad things come about? Answer

Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer

What about the issue of suffering? Doesn’t this prove that there is no God and that we are on our own? Answer

Does God feel our pain? Answer

What kind of world would you create? Answer

Love

Hope

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Final judgment

Featuring: Seth Rogen, Adam Sandler, Eric Bana, Leslie Mann, Ken Jeong, Jonah Hill, Jason Schwartzman, Andy Dick, Sarah Silverman, Norm MacDonald, Jason Sandler, Maude Apatow, RZA, Aziz Ansari, Suzy Nakamura, Iris Apatow, Aubrey Plaza, Steve Bannos, Bo Burnham, Maria Bamford, Torsten Voges, Ezra “Buddha” Masters, Brad Grunberg, Jane Le, George Coe, Samantha Quan, Dave Attell, Davon McDonald, Susan Krebs, Elaine Kao, Mandi Kreisher, Laivan Greene, Ca'Shawn Sims, Nicole Mandich, Calvin Sykes, Nydia McFadden, Nick Dash, Rick Shapiro, Arshad Aslam, Nicol Paone, Brian Lally, Sammy Jack, Harris Wittels, Eleanor Zee
Director: Judd Apatow
Producer: Universal Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Relativity Media, Apatow Productions, Madison 23, Happy Madison Productions, Judd Apatow, Andrew J. Cohen, Norman Durance, Jack Giarraputo, Evan Goldberg, Barry Mendel, Brendan O'Brien, Seth Rogen, Clayton Townsend, Nicholas Weinstock, Lisa Yadavaia
Distributor: Universal Pictures

Judd Apatow movies tend to be somewhat of a double-edged sword. For those unfamiliar with his work as a director, his two previous films include “The 40 Year Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up.” Both of these films earn their “R” ratings with extreme language and sexual content, but they also carry messages that are hard to find in movies these days. From the theme of abstinence to the beauty and wonder of life through birth, it’s confounding to see such pure themes in films accompanied by unadulterated smut. With his third effort, “Funny People,” Apatow once again provides us with a mixed bag of a movie that contains enough extreme content to keep most discerning Christians away, but also a deep and powerful message about selfishness, relationships, and the finite nature of life itself.

The story centers around comedian/movie star George Simmons, played marvelously by Adam Sandler. George has everything a man could ever want: a huge house, tons of money, and people waiting on him hand and foot. George is diagnosed with a rare form of Lukemia, one that is almost undoubtedly fatal. He realizes through this revelation that while he has money, fame, and fortune, he has no one close to him, and thus he decides to keep his disease a secret. He befriends by chance an unknown comedian named Ira Wright (Seth Rogen), and hires him to be his assistant. A friendship buds between Ira and Georg, and they battle his disease together. Ira encourages George to reveal his disease to others, which forces George to reconnect with his family and his lost love from years past, who’s now married with kids. After doing this, much to his surprise, George finds out that he has beaten his disease, and the experimental medicine he’s been taking has cured him.

One would think that an experience such as this one would refocus George’s life. After staring certain death in the face and coming out of it unscathed, he would realize the importance of people, family, and the need for love in his life. That’s not the case. George easily falls back into the same traps of success and tries to use his new lease on life for personal gain. He’s even willing to break up a family, if it means getting his old girl back. It takes another loss in George’s life, along with some straight talk from his friend Ira, to help George see how his selfishness has grabbed hold of his life and kept him isolated from everyone who wanted to be a part of his life.

While the previous paragraphs may portray a deep and moving film, it is unfortunately only half of the story. As with his previous movies, Apatow decides that his story isn’t good enough on its own, but needs a steady stream of coarse language and sexual content to make it more realistic to the lifestyle of a comedian. While I appreciate this improvisational style of comedy, the material on display here makes “Funny People” completely inappropriate, as well as inaccessible for most all audiences.

It really is a shame, too, because a clean version of this film looks a lot like the parable of the rich fool from Luke 12:13-21, except with redemption. It’s not a major transformation, but the film ends with a completely selfless act on the part of George Simmons. Just like the man from the parable who builds bigger store houses for his crops and goods, George Simmons was a man who had stocked up on money, cars, and material possessions only to finally realize their worthlessness. A small selfless act symbolizes a big life change for George. But this massive message is buried beneath a mountain of garbage, and there’s not much funny about that.

Violence: Minor / Profanity: Extreme / Sex/Nudity: Extreme

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive
Positive—“Funny People” is an amazing film. I have seen 29 films released this year, and this one is #4 on my list. That is to say, it’ll definitely finish the year in the Top 10 (and I mostly stick to the well-made movies, having become skilled at avoiding the movies I won’t like). It may not reach the heights of Judd Apatow’s directorial debut “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” but it is better than “Knocked Up” (which is saying a good deal), and it is definitely the most mature of the lot. But it seems unfair to say “Funny People” isn’t as “good” as “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” because they are entirely different movies. You see, “Funny People” isn’t a comedy. Many people were expecting a comedy, and they hated that they didn’t get one.

Yes, this movie has many funny lines in it, but it is a very serious film. It portrays the life of a successful comedian George Simmons (Adam Sandler), who has all that money can buy but is still a miserable man. Then he learns that he is sick and will likely die. He takes struggling comic Ira Wright (Seth Rogen) under his wing, and they form a relationship that grows deeper than that of an employer and employee. This is the film in which Judd Apatow reveals his true colors. You see, Judd Apatow may make comedic films, but in all of them there is a strong undercurrent of pessimism, offset by the acceptance of the fact that suffering is a part of life and that one must learn from it. This is very much present in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up”—both present main characters that are, in fact, pretty pathetic main characters. A 40-year-old who has never had a meaningful relationship in his life? An unemployed stoner who impregnates a random lady he meets at the club? However, funny those movies were, they present two protagonists in pessimistic life situations.

But in “Funny People” it really hits hard because Judd Apatow refuses to let the comedy mask it. In this film, George Simmons is truly a miserable man, and we see it. The third act of the movie (which less discerning viewers called unnecessary, but which was entirely necessary) involves George meeting up with his ex-fiancee and trying to start a new relationship with her, despite that she’s married. This is just as potent as the first 2/3 of the film, and it has many wonderful lessons to learn from it. They are very serious lessons, ones that many people don’t go to films to learn, but they are important ones. Also, this movie’s ending isn’t sunshine and roses like Apatow’s other two directorial films. But the characters learn a whole lot and become better and relatively happier people because of it.

It is 146 minutes long, but it never feels too long. I wouldn’t want a single minute of this film cut. I have a bone to pick with movie audiences, and it involves Adam Sandler. Why is it that everyone goes to see him in his aggressively stupid comedies and family films, but whenever he does a serious role, nobody shows up? He gave an Oscar-worthy performance in “Reign Over Me” (admittedly, the rest of the film wasn’t Oscar-worthy), and nobody saw it. He gave another great performance in “Punch-Drunk Love,” but it remained in the arthouse circuit. And then he makes “Funny People” and everyone says how awful the movie was because it was serious, and the movie barely manages to make a third of the receipts that “Knocked Up” did.

I have to say this: Adam Sandler is a wonderful actor in serious roles. He is a HORRIBLE actor in comedy roles! Please see his serious roles and forget tripe like “Click” and “Bedtime Stories” and “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan.” Potentially objectionable content in “Funny People”: the same as in Judd Apatow’s other films. Lots of swearing, lots of sexual humor/content.

Others have listed it on this very page, and I can’t remember it all right now. But if you are not offended by Apatow’s other films, PLEASE watch “Funny People” with an open mind and expect a serious film (I think most people that didn’t like “Funny People” had skewed expectations). You will love it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
—JM, age 19 (USA)
Positive—My husband and I rented this movie thinking we were renting a comedy. We both thought this movie had a lot of humorous scenes. In fact, we laughed a ton. However, this movie is not a comedy. It is a very serious heavy movie, like watching the book of Ecclesiastes. Meaningless, meaningless. The money, fame, women.

In the end, Adam Sandler’s character was left with the realization that in fact his life was utterly meaningless. I thought the end of the movie was very important. Unable to successfully move forward, he moved towards what was safe and comfortable, his ex-girlfriend. While it was painful to watch, they both discovered that they could not resurrect the past. Her line was powerful when she said “I have a husband and a family” and chooses to stay with them. I work as a counselor and have watched so many couples walk away from their spouses and their children. I wish they could all watch this movie and find the courage to say the same thing.

I also appreciated Rogan’s character’s line, which was something like “it seems to me like your happiness might damage this family”. So for me, ultimately, I appreciated the movie’s message. Even though the movie was filled with crude humor, it’s message on some level was Biblical. That being said, there are about 1000 penis jokes. Oh to be exaggerating. Almost ALL of the comedy in the movie is blue. It just got to be ridiculous. It’s rated R and it is by no means a tame R. So keep that in mind if you are going to watch it. It is a movie geared towards adults.

One additional note of caution. The movie didn’t offend me, but the trailers totally did! There was some trailer for a trashy unrated American Pie movie that had full frontal nudity, women kissing, you name it. I was stunned. We skipped straight to the menu so who knows what else was coming. But just so you know, if you rent it, you might want to skip straight to the main menu.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—jb, age 33 (USA)
Negative
Negative—My husband and I went to this movie because we like Adam Sandler as an actor, and we thought it would be funny. We usually don’t see “R” rated movies. The reviews we read beforehand said “some sexuality, language and crude sexual humor,” so I was thinking maybe a little more language than a “PG-13.” In the first 20 minutes of the movie they used the “F” word about every 4 words or so and just kept using it freely throughout.

Because they were stand up comedians, there were jokes. The jokes were mainly about sex and were very offensive and quite frankly not even funny. In fact, not much of the movie was funny at all. We stayed for about an hour of the movie, and it still hadn’t gotten to much of a point about the disease or the ex-girlfriend. We got up and walked out of the theater right after Adam Sandlers character had sex with two girls in the same night. There was full frontal nudity with the first girl, and we had time to look away with the second. That’s when we left. I was very disappointed in Adam Sandler (especially after watching him in “Bedtime Stories”). Needless to say, this was NOT a good date movie, or a good movie period. It ruined our night.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 2½
—Kara, age 30 (USA)
Negative—I thought this would be a funny movie, and it could have been without all the completely vulgar language and sexual talk. It was disgusting how many references were made to the male genitalia and even to men having sex with men. I was hoping that things would improve with the story, but it only got worse. Even my friends who are not Christian were surprised at the vulgarity of this film. It was a complete waste of time and a sad commentary on what people are willing to accept for entertainment.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 2
—Holly, age 33 (USA)
Negative—Are you kidding me? I found nothing “redeeming” about this poor attempt of a “message movie”, although I stuck it out to the bitter, boring end in hopes that the horribly gratuitous profanity might end in some positive message. Instead, the ending was wasted on some poor (and unsuccessful) attempt at a “redemption” message.

I am a huge Adam Sandler fan; however, I must say that this movie was not only a total and complete disappointment, it was disgusting. I am by no means a prude with respect to vulgar language, but this movie was a gratuitous diatribe of vulgarity from start to finish. I hung out with a fairly loose and rough crowd in my younger days and we didn’t use 10% of the vulgarity this film felt necessary to get its “message” across. I’m still trying to figure out what the message was. BTW, what movie were you guys watching?
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: ½
—David, age 47 (USA)
Comments from young people
Negative—Overall, I thought this movie was wayyyy too long (HOW HAS NOBODY MENTIONED THAT YET OH MY GOODNESS), and it was not very funny, along with the rest of the recent Seth Rogen movies. But I will get back to that later. First, I think it is absolutely hilarious that so called “die-hard Sandler fans” are complaining about the amount of vulgarity. Are you kidding me? Have you seen any of his movies? If you go to an R-rated comedy in 2009 with big name actors, EXPECT vulgarity. Don’t act all confused about it, that is just foolish. Anyways, there was tons of cursing. It doesn’t really bother me too much anymore, it is just disappointing that so many writers have to rely on cursing and sex for a good laugh. But hey, at least this wasn’t “The Hangover”… thank God.

Back to the movie. It has an okay plot, nothing special, typical Apatow concept (struggling man decides he wants to find love but has a hard time doing it). It started out well, with Simmons inviting Ira to tag along and write jokes, ha ha ha funny funny. Ira’s roommates on that TV show called Yo Teach were very funny as well. However, about midway through the movie, ***SPOILER*** Sandler’s character is cured of his disease and then the movie turns in to a horrendously boring drama. It was really annoying and uninteresting and it drug on for another hour. This movie was longer than LOTR, I mean good grief. If I wanted to see a good story, I would’ve seen Seven Pounds or something. But I wanted to see a comedy, not an annoying halfway funny piece of garbage that trys to convey a positive message through all of its filth. Pass.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Brandon, age 16 (USA)
Positive—It is a nice movie; although it has a lot of bad words. The moral of the movie is really good. When I tell this, it doesn’t mean that I am against Christ or anything like that, it’s just that I always wanted a miracle to happen to me, which I always wished for… But still, HE is great… Everyone should watch this movie. It’s really good. …
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Zhran, age 16 (Oman)