The man who made The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up is back with a new film. Funny People stars Adam Sandler as George Simmons, a comedian diagnosed with a potentially deadly illness. While the movie, which opens Friday, is loaded with Apatow's trademark grossout humor, there is also a serious side that some fans of his films might find surprising. Here's what critics are saying:
The thing about "Funny People" is that it's a real movie. That means carefully written dialogue and carefully placed supporting performances -- and it's about something. It could have easily been a formula film, and the trailer shamelessly tries to misrepresent it as one, but George Simmons learns and changes during his ordeal, and we empathize.
-- Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
"Funny People" is a less successful stab at explaining jerks who make jokes. The movie, deeply personal to its maker, is too self-absorbed to convey effectively the emotional complexity that Apatow has in mind. The message that comes across is: We're all screwed, and then we die. Ba-DUM.
-- Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly
Apatow is on the right track. In moving his adolescent male comedies into more adult realms, the humor sharpens and characters deepen. "Funny People" might be a transitional film for Apatow, and the good news is that his people remain funny.
-- Kirk Honeycutt, The Hollywood Reporter
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There's so much that's so disarmingly good and sharp about "Funny People" that you wish the whole movie weren't so much of a shambles. I've seen the film twice, and both times, exactly halfway into its two-and-a-half-hour running time, I have felt the cabin shudder and noticed tiny fissures forming in the fuselage.
-- Scott Foundas, The Village Voice
What's good about "Funny People" is really good, and that starts with Sandler, who's outstanding. He's fascinating as George, funny enough but unafraid to show an ugly, narcissistic side that prevents him from getting too close to anyone.
-- Bill Goodykoontz, The Arizona Republic
Apatow's glimpses behind the brick wall of stand-up feel authentic; parts of the film actually come from Sandler's pre-fame youth. But "Funny People" veers wildly in tone and style, with jarring cameos (Ray Romano, Eminem) and a third act that mimics one of John Cassavetes improvised experiments. Apatow may deserve to be taken seriously, but for now he's still kidding around.
-- Rafer Guzman, Newsday