Sunday, November 29, 2009

(Two) Paragraph Movie Reviews: Funny People

If you don't have plans to see this movie, you can check the spoilers here and then come back.

Weird movie; not weird in the sense that it was surreal or anything (thought it was at times), but in the sense that I was pretty well entertained for a pretty lengthy period, but couldn't quite put my critical finger on whether or not it was actually any good. I'd tend towards saying it was a quality film, as for the most part the performances were top notch and Judd Apatow explored some really interesting and dark territory in ways that weren't overly maudlin; however, at over two hours, the story direction certainly wandered a lot, which was almost a matter of preservation given that length, but it was also a bit distracting as the transitions between what almost seemed like separate mini-movies could be a bit jarring. Also, despite its winding nature, the journey the main characters took was still pretty fulfilling to follow, yet it feels like Apatow botched the dismount just a little, as the ending is both a bit cliched and also somewhat unfulfilling. These critiques aside, I'm impressed by the inventiveness and sheer endurance of the filmmaker here on a movie that he could have probably cranked out as an hour and a half chucklefest; he certainly had a vision and committed, accomplishing what he set out to do at least in part.

Adam Sandler actually frustrated me a great deal here, in that he showed he really is a pretty bad ass dramatic actor in addition to being quite funny, but I wish he wouldn't fall back on the goofy voices when he doesn't need them. I was most impressed by how genuine he made his role (which I'm sure came in part from that he seemed to be playing himself, but still), and that really seemed to set the tone for the cast, as these characters felt like people you'd actually encounter, not just caricatures. Leslie Mann is the perfect example of this as Sandler's lost love who makes her mid-life crisis and failing marriage both real and compelling as well as not totally depressing (I also love that Mann is so talented that I can't imagine anybody ever complaining that her husband pets her in all his movies--and their kids are great in this too!). Ditto Eric Bana as the dickhead husband, but not a comically ridiculous dickhead, just a normal one who's not all bad. Seth Rogen ironically actually sticks out as Sandler's "everyman" protege because he doesn't deviate enough from his usual over-the-top schtich and thus feels like a weirdo from a screwball comedy dropped into normal people's drama (which itself makes for entertainment, actually). The supporting cast is stella, with Jonah Hill, Jason Schwartzman and especially Aubrey Plaza kicking all sorts of ass, plus cameos galore by everybody from James Taylor to Eminem. A weird movie to be sure, but in a mostly good way.


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