There comes a time in every young film-goer’s life when he must ask himself one simple question- “Why the fuck am I watching Eminem yell at Ray Romano in a 140-minute comedy about Adam Sandler playing Rob Schneider with cancer?” I really have no idea what it is I just watched. All I know is it was interminable and strangely light on the, you know, jokes, which is a problem since writing jokes is basically all the Apatow/Rogen/Jonah Hill/Paul Rudd axis can do well.
Movie critics have a tendency to lump any and all humor that is related to sex organs or the fluids they produce into one big pile of locker room jokes, but that’s because most movie critics have never stepped foot inside a locker room, let alone successfully cracked a joke in one, and thus have no idea why Seth Rogen is funnier than Rob Schneider or anyone involved in any capacity with any of the American Pie movies. I don’t know who the fuck writes each of these movies (I can’t be bothered to figure out who exactly wrote Superbad and who wrote Pineapple Express or Knocked Up or Role Models), but whoever does accurately captures the way that guys who are relatively intelligent despite not having read the latest Houellebecq novel talk about sex and bust each other’s balls. This shouldn’t be that hard to do, but it apparently is since no one else in Hollywood seems to have a fucking clue how to do it.
Until Funny People, the problem Apatow and company consistently ran into is that they would often end up sacrificing the credibility of whatever movie they were making in the name of one or two jokes that it could easily stand to lose. Whatever sympathy Apatow hoped to generate for Steve Carrell’s plight in The 40-Year-Old Virgin was thrown out the window when it was revealed that his virginity and nerdfuckery were merely the result of some INCREDIBLY COMIC SEXUAL MISHAPS in his late teens (Dude, he totally just kicked that chick in the face when she was about to fuck him, that totally always happens!). Seth Rogen somehow surviving on 15 grand for 3 years despite the fact that he goes out on the town and buys 10-dollar beers at clubs and then finding a web design job in like 3 days when he GETS SERIOUS despite the fact that he has no marketable skills or training whatsoever in Knocked Up was some of the most ridiculous shit ever. And while I don’t find it as ridiculous as many bitter nerds do that Rogen’s characters often get pussy in these movies (after all, he credibly played one of the jock bullies in Donnie Darko), I draw the line at Jonah Hill landing a hot chick who doesn’t even drink at the end of Superbad, especially since he delivered every line in the movie by yelling like an autistic child.
Apatow manages to avoid these pitfalls in Funny People by refusing to put more than 10 jokes into his 2-hour plus take on the eternal tale about comedians who get cancer and think they’re gonna die and then end up not dying, and about 5 of the jokes rely on Apatow’s time-tested “deliberately cast a character who is odd-looking and then have all your other characters make fun of him,” gambit. Judd, it might be funny if your doctor randomly turned out to be a long-haired Teutonic giant in real life, just like it might be funny if your friend grew a really long beard for no reason, but all the clever lines lobbed in their direction seem a little less spontaneous when we know you just had your casting director find a big German guy and you told your no-name actor buddy to grow a beard if he wanted to eat this year.
A common criticism leveled at the movie seems to be that the last half-hour, after Adam Sandler finds out his cancer is in remission and treks up to San Francisco to try and win back his ex-girlfriend who is now married to Eric Bana with two children, is tacked on and feels like a different film. There’s some merit to this criticism, but I think it could have worked if Apatow had managed to lose some of the unbelievably boring middle section wherein Sandler just mopes around and Seth Rogen acts like a bitch over Jason Schwartzman fucking this girl who is one of the worst actresses I have ever seen. Sandler actually gives an impressive and ballsy performance in this film. His George Simmons is a legitimate dick, and not in a Dr. House, “this man ignores social conventions and is not afraid to tell it like it is and does not easily show affection,” kind of way, either. Simmons is a self-absorbed, petulant, unkind son of a bitch, and Sandler only lets the audience see brief glimpses of a slightly more decent human being. Of course, Apatow, never one for tact or subtlety, tries to drive this point home by showing Sandler failing to find any interest in Apatow’s real-life daughter’s rendition of a song from Cats, because he is a sappy piece of shit with a weird conservative bent (just ask pasty, beady-eyed ghoul Ross Douthat ).
God, this movie is a fucking mess. Apatow just doesn’t give a shit, he keeps doing whatever the hell he wants without putting any thought into it and the studios keep on dropping 55-gallon barrels of money off at his front door for him and his annoying family to roll around in. There’s a scene where Sandler decides to tell his ex-girlfriend he has cancer, and then they cut directly to the two of them sitting down in his house and they have a long conversation where it’s not even clear if he’s told her he’s sick yet for like 5 minutes. Have some fucking respect for your craft, Judd. Janusz Kaminski is still shooting his movies so that every fucking light source seems radioactive.
Eric Bana and the RZA were funny. Adam Sandler needs to make Happy Gilmore 2. I’m going to kill myself tomorrow.