Funny People (15)

Reviewed,Anthony Quinn
Friday 28 August 2009 00:00

In which comedy meister Judd Apatow tries to meld his trademark scatological humour to a character-based drama and ends up with a Lawrence Kasdan movie for the emotionally stunted.

Adam Sandler plays a variation of himself as George, a spoilt film star who's just been diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia and responds by returning to his roots in stand-up comedy clubs. Here he enlists Ira (Seth Rogen) as his gag writer, flunky and "best friend", though the protégé gradually discovers that illness hasn't much changed George: despite his brush with mortality, he's still a selfish oaf. Worse, Apatow decides to indulge his miscast star, so we get the whole Sandler schtick of silly voices and endless dick jokes. Rogen is better, caught between fawning over his new patron and growing disgust at his self-absorption. The film wants to celebrate the rivalrous world of LA stand-ups, and features cameos from denizens old and new, but the ongoing "problem" of George's redemption skews everything out of shape. Vulgarity and sentimentality are set up in a fight to the death. I laughed a few times, mostly at Jonah Hill's nerdy but casual smarts as a lowly stand-up. At one point he returns home from seeing the latest Harry Potter movie: "The guy who plays him is so old! He should be called, like, Harold Potter." But most of the jokes are uphill work.

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