Page 18 THE VILLADOM TIMES I, II, III & IV • August 12, 2009 ‘Funny People’ offers look at standup comedians by Dennis Seuling Despite its title, “Funny People” is not a comedy in the traditional sense. While this film has some top comedy talent in the persons of Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, and director Judd Apatow (“The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up”), it is a look beneath the veneers of men who make their living doing standup comedy, and explores some darker elements. George Simmons (Sandler) appears to have all that money can buy: a beautiful home overlooking Los Angeles, a garage full of merchandise he has received free of charge just because he is a celebrity, and a never-ending collection of young women eager to jump into the sack with a star. But George has no significant relationship, no friends, and is battling a rare, life-threatening disease. When he sees aspiring comedian Ira Wright (Rogen) perform at a comedy club, George asks Ira to write him some jokes for an upcoming corporate gig and eventually hires him as his personal assistant, partly as joke writer, partly for company. Though “Funny People” is only his third feature film as writer/director, Apatow has established a trademark of creating natural dialogue and having his actors deliver it effortlessly. His ear for dialogue and flair for inventing colorful supporting characters makes his work stand out. This time around, Apatow has ventured into rough eyed-innocent face immediately conveys. Ira lives with roommates Mark Taylor Jackson (Jason Schwartzman), currently starring on a hit TV sitcom, and Leon Koenig (Jonah Hill), a sometime standup comic more proficient at making wisecracks with his pals than igniting audience laughter when he is on stage. This is a strange trio: three men living together even though one is being paid handsomely for TV work. But it allows the competitive pals to share their concerns, complain and moan, and air their views on the trials and tribulations of the comedy business. The chemistry among the three actors works well. Two other supporting actors deserve mention. As Chuck, fellow deli counterman at Ira’s day job, RZA is very funny as a friend who will attend his coworker’s standup gig only if paid to do so. This is a guy with perfect comic timing and a look to match. He is on screen for just one scene, but he steals it. Dr. Lars (Torsten Voges) is George’s physician, who must convey sobering news to the comedian and outline the rigorous treatment he must face. As straight man to Sandler, he is a joy to watch, since he gets his laughs by staying in character and letting his appearance and Sandler’s barbs create two first-rate scenes. Leslie Mann is on hand as George’s former girlfriend, Laura, and Eric Bana plays Clarke, her Australian husband. Mann is a pleasant, attractive actress, but has a tough role here. Married, with two children, her Laura is pitched into a situation of renewed intimacy with George, a development that sinks the film, reducing it to cliché, predictability, and tedium. I have never been a fan of Adam Sandler’s movies. As a sketch comic on “Saturday Night Live,” he was wonderful and portrayed many terrific, offbeat characters. But a little Sandler goes a long way, and when he anchors a feature film, he often overstays his welcome. “Funny People” attempts to modulate his boyish hijinks and have him rise to a level beyond his customary celebration of male immaturity. “Funny People” accomplishes that, but (continued on Crossword page) Adam Sandler (left) and Seth Rogen in ‘Funny People.’ territory with a film about a comedian and his problems that is not very funny. The audience does see glimpses of Ira and George on stage. While it is understandable that Ira will be rough and unpolished, the viewer expects that George will annihilate the audience with spot-on jokes and observations. This never happens. Instead, Apatow allows Sandler to mutter, utter a few lame gags, and mug as the on-screen audiences guffaw at nothing especially amusing. It’s tough to empathize with Sandler’s George. He has made his life what it is, becoming wealthy and famous in the process. Faced with the uncertainty of his illness, he mopes around, leaning on Ira in the absence of the usual support system of family and friends. He is desperate to connect, but cannot. Rogen, slimmed down from his earlier movies, plays the struggling artist with integrity, a quality his wide- State Line 375 State Highway 17 North, Mahwah Open 24 Hours, 7 Days Join Us For Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner The Best Got Better! Diner - Restaurant 201-529-3353 Calling All Crafters! 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