Judd Apatow, whose name is seemingly attached to every comedy released these days, has only directed three movies, The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and now Funny People.
You could argue that both The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up are films about childish characters who in the course of the movie grow up (at least a little). And in directing them, Apatow was attempting to grow up himself as a filmmaker. Well, with Funny People, Judd Apatow has made his first grown up film.
Like all of us, Funny People retains some of the same qualities that Apatow films had when they were younger and more immature. Don't worry, the jokes about male genitalia are still there (lots and lots of them). But the storyline (despite the title and the tone of the previews) is far more adult then his previous two films.
In fact, I'm not sure that I would classify this as a comedy. I mean, it is funny, or at least it has some very humorous moments. I laughed out loud on numerous occasions. But the movie itself is far more serious then one would expect from a Judd Apatow film, a Seth Rogen film, or an Adam Sandler film. In a way, this movie is a departure for all of them.
Seth Rogen plays the most complex character that he's played probably since Freaks and Geeks (a cult television series that sadly only lasted one season, and that featured Judd Apatow as a producer). This is not the Seth Rogen that has gotten a little overplayed of late. His wannabe comedian Ira Wright is as real as any movie character I've ever seen. In my opinion, this is the best acting job that Rogen has ever done.
Adam Sandler also gives the best performance of his career. His character, George Simmons is different from the characters that Sandler became famous by playing, although his character became famous in the film by playing many of the same types of characters. Sandler in this film plays a comedian not unlike himself, and yet plays it with a seriousness and a depth that I honestly found surprising he possessed considering the types of characters that he usually plays. He was phenomenal and worked incredibly well with Rogen throughout the film.
As always with Apatow films, the supporting cast helped make the movie. Jonah Hill was funny and used sporadically enough for even those that hate him to not have a problem with him in this film. Jason Schwartzman is hilarious as the buddy who has just enough fame to be really annoying, and his sitcom, "Yo Teach" is so terrible I'm surprised that it isn't actually on television. Aubrey Plaza (April the Intern on Parks and Recreation) is great as the girl of Ira's dreams, Daisy. It makes me hope that Parks and Recreation gives her a lot more to do in the future. Speaking of P&R, Aziz Ansari (Tom on P&R) has a few minutes of screen time and as always cracks me up. The best bit parts in the movie, however, belong to Judd's two young daughters also featured in Knocked Up. Here they have a much bigger part, and they are amazingly funny.
While the storylines in 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up were pretty predictable (although still a lot of fun), Funny People is not at all what you expect or are led to believe from the preview (which doesn't give away nearly as much as it seems like it does).
Like I said, this isn't really a comedy, but more of a drama. It is a story about a near death experience and how such a thing is handled. It is a story about coming to terms with who we are as people, and that isn't always pretty and it isn't always funny even when the people it is happening to are hilarious people.
Go into this movie with an open mind, not expecting what Apatow has given you in the past, and you will be treated with a fantastic and award worthy film. This is the best movie that I've seen so far this year.
Until Next Time, my long awaited (and way past due) Josh's Choice For Best New Show Of The Year post will be up soon.