©2009 Big Empire Industries and Randy Shandis Enterprises
Every right imaginable is reserved.


This week:
Funny People

Filthy says:
"Man, these sad sacks aren't funny at all."

What I dreaded just from the title Funny People is this: that the name would be some attempt at irony, that while the title was Funny People it was actually about people who were all sad and torn up inside. The crying-on-the-inside kind of clown. The obviousness of the tortured soul, artiste trope. Turns out, that's what it is. It's an insular, self-absorbed, schmaltzy attempt at "serious" moviemaking. It's also as messy as the bedsheets after Grandma rolls over on her colostomy bag.

Here's what good comedians do well: they tell jokes and do funny shit like fall down and bump into things. That's what we pay them for, and it's a pretty damn good job. A hell of a lot better than working the cash register at the Universal Gas Mart. Just like I don't care if the guy working at the gas station really wants to be a fighter pilot, I don't give a monkey's bazoom if writer/director Apatow wants to be taken seriously. Just ring up my Icee, or make me laugh, and keep your misery and aspirations to yourself. I didn't pay to get them.

You know why? Because like everyone else I've got my own fucking dreams and hopes. It's pretty God damn presumptuous to think everyone else wants to pay to hear about yours. Funny People isn't really about the character's aspirations so much as it is about Apatow's desire to be taken seriously, and about being so insulated in a world of sycophants and think-alikes that he has no idea how trite and shallow his deep thoughts come across. He has nobody around him, apparently, that can think deeply and say, "Hey, I don't think you're saying anything new or interesting here." He tries, though. Good fucking God, he tries. For two and a half hours. And he gets farther from a message the deeper it gets.

The big ideas of Funny People are that comedians aren't really as happy as you might think. And that being rich and famous is hard. Oh, boo-fucking-hoo. If you're rich and miserable, don't fucking tell it to a poor person because he's poor and miserable. What the fuck makes all these rich people think their misery is so unique or profound? I'll tell you what: living in their isolated, fancy suburbs and mansions, that's what. They're so God damned isolated from the rest of us they think they're the only ones with problems and they want us to pay ten bucks to hear about them. Hey, irch assholes! We don't give the zit on a fat kid's ass how sad you are driving your Bentleys. I'm sad riding a bicycle here. You are showing us the side of comics we didn't pay to see.

In Funny People, Adam Sandler plays a wealthy, sour, dick-obsessed comic who appears in shitty movies, like one where he plays a merman and one where his adult head is transposed onto the body of a baby, in all of which he makes babytalk. In other words, exactly the sort of crap Sandler really does appear in. This leads me to this question: in this movie he basically acknowledges that most of his catalog is puerile shit, so what movie will he make next? Anyway, the Sandler in this movie is a sad sack with a mansion, no friends and now life-threatening leukemia. Seriously, Apatow uses cancer to force Sandler to reconsider his life. No sense in being subtle or original.

Once he learns he's dying, Sandler pines for the olden days when he was actually funny and no longer just a paycheck-cashing bad-movie whore. He starts doing stand-up again and latches on to a young, struggling comic. He wants to relive his early days of comedy, having romanticized the struggle and the thrill of making people laugh when it was still new and exciting, instead of a tedious chore. What the movie never says is that Sandler made his shitty life, and had he not been so greedy or insecure, he could still be doing comedy just for fun. Some of us work that way.

After that setup, and the introduction of some funny young comics, the movie goes to shit. I still can't figure out why Funny People runs nearly 150 minutes. There are too many scenes of good stand-up and bad stand-up, neither of which is particularly compelling in the movie. There is a scene shortly after the midpoint where Sandler learns he won't die. The guy is such an asshole and offers so little, though, that it's hard to care. He and most of the cast act mopey and passive, because that's how Apatow sees these sad clowns.

The revelation that he will survive is followed by a dreadful bunch of cameos that feel more like Apatow showing off who he can get to be in his movie than anything organic to the story. Ray Romano, Eminem, Sara Silverman, Dave Attelle and Norm MacDonald are among the folks who pop in to crack one lame joke then disappear, as though this "serious" drama-comedy has turned into one of those craptacular Comedy Central roasts of Charo or Nipsy Russell.

After that scene, you expect Sandler to redeem his life. He's supposed to say, "I want to correct all my wrongs and be a better person." Apatow doesn't write it this way, and credit to him for that. But actually, this variation is worse. While it isn't a clichÈ for Sandler to be irredeemable, it's unpleasant to watch. The movie veers off into embarrassingly awful, pointless relationship bullshit. He reconnects with his ex-flame (leslie Mann), of course, the only girl he's ever loved. He hauls Rogen with him to San Francisco to try and woo Mann away from her husband(Eric Bana), an insensitive, philandering Australian who watches rugby and talk about the women he'd like to fuck. While Rogen plays with the kids, Sandler and Mann bone in a guesthouse, then Mann announces she'll leave her husband. Rogen thinks this is a terrible idea and halfheartedly tries to stop her, for the sake of her family and her two kids. There is a shitload of confusion among the characters as to whether Sandler is dying or recovering, which makes little sense but is supposed to justify a lot of silly behavior. What comes next is a bewildering personal drama with Mann not sure what to do, guys acting all macho and punching each other, a lot of unfunny yelling. Ultimately, she chooses to stay with her husband because Sandler didn't cry when he watched a shitty videotape of her daughter singing "Memories" from Cats. Seriously.

This whole sequence is brutal to watch because it is so unfunny, and the characters and emotions are portrayed so amateurishly. Everyone comes across as assholes, but also shallow, needy and easily influenced.

Funny People is someone trying to capture a part of his own life. Maybe it's Apatow's early days when he used to travel around with and open for Garry Shandling. Maybe it's Sandler and Apatow reminiscing about when they were roommates before they made the big time. Whatever it is, it they aren't nearly as interesting, original or profound as they think they are. They are just comics who tell dick jokes. Dick jokes are what they do best. And if they don't want to tell dick jokes, or have run out of good ones, maybe it's time to get off the stage. Two Fingers for Funny People.

Oh yeah, I'm out of town the next two weeks, so swear amongst yourselves.

Want to tell Filthy Something?



Edwin Carpenter of the Dove Foundation

Aliens in the Attic is "A family comedy with heart!"

Filthy's Reading
Richard Price - Clockers

Listening to
David Byrne - Look into the Eyeball


Megashark vs. Giant Octopus