DVD: Funny People (15)

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The Independent Culture

Judd Apatow's third movie emerged into a Hollywood comedy landscape so saturated with his influence that the backlash was almost inevitable.

As well as his own directorial efforts, The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, there were the 10 or so projects to which he had put his name as producer, not to mention all those other bromances starring members of his troupe (Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen et al), which seemed to have the Apatow stamp, too. Yet Funny People, for all its flaws – yes, it's too long – may yet be remembered as the richest of his three films to date.

Adam Sandler turns in a superb performance as George Simmons, a lonely, misanthropic comedy superstar who spends the first half of the film expecting to die of a terminal illness, before being unexpectedly cured. Seth Rogen is low-key as his protégé and punchbag Ira, but Ira's pals Leo (Jonah Hill) and Mark (Jason Schwartzmann) are a hoot – as is Eric Bana, playing the husband of George's childhood sweetheart, Laura (Leslie Mann, Apatow's offscreen wife).

Funny People is the director's 1970s movie: loping, reflective, frequently downbeat. It's also a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the lives of stand-up comics, featuring cameos from some of the best known faces on the circuit, and demonstrating that funny people are frequently far from being happy people.