‘Funny People,’ ‘The Ugly Truth’ come up short in the laugh department
The Judd Apatow posse — the writer-director, wife Leslie Mann, their two daughters, Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill — huddle up with Adam Sandler and go long. And we do mean long.
Funny People, a drama pretending to be a dramedy about a bitter, dying selfish comic, clocks in at two hours, 26 minutes. Thanks to the Apatow contribution, the movie isn’t quite terrible, but it is not very good either. It hovers on the screen, pounding away at the notion that a great deal of stand-up humor, in particular male humor, comes from an incredible well of anger that explodes in a diatribe of self-centered rants about sexual conquests, humiliation and fear.
I’ve interviewed many comedians over the decades (Jay Leno, George Carlin, Richard Lewis) and what stands out is that they are deadly serious when talking about their careers. One of the most interesting comedians I spoke to, Richard Jeni, took his own life. Jeni talked about how doing this job pretty much makes it impossible to have a normal life. Apatow wants to capture the angst that drives some comedians.
The clown turned inside out to reveal his true nature is not palatable when that nature is as disagreeable as George Simmons, a popular comic with an Adam Sandler-like career (major star, hit movies, groupies) who pretty much hates his life and himself. And this is before he finds out he has an incurable blood disease.
Once slammed with a death sentence, Simmons hires a raw young comic, Ira Wright (Seth Rogen) to be a joke writer, housemate and friend. Seriously, he feels the need to buy a friend. Wright idolizes Simmons and is thrilled to make real money and make his working comic roommates (played by Jonah Hill and Jason Schwartzman) jealous.
Wright has to put up with a lot of crap from Simmons, a selfish jerk whose near-death experience is making him less human. Simmons even decides to try and hook up once again with his true love (Leslie Mann) even though she is married with two kids.
Rogen’s sweet-natured performance as a mildly talented mensch is the one bright light in a dark comedy that doesn’t provide nearly enough laughs to make us embrace the nasty vibe.
Ugly Truth Indeed
It is a crying shame that two people as talented as Gerard Butler and Katherine Heigl got shafted with The Ugly Truth, trying unsuccessfully to mine a few laughs from this horribly stale cookie cutter rom-com that is full of fake emotions, dead spots where the laughs belong, and a thoroughly unconvincing storyline. If you believe this romance could happen, let’s see if we can hook up Donald Trump with Rosie O’Donnell in the sequel.
Funny People **
Written & directed by Judd Apatow; Rated R
The Ugly Truth *
Directed by Robert Luketic; rated R
To read more about movies and other topics covered by movie critic Lori Hoffman under her blog alias Moviejunkie, visit http://blogs.acweekly.com/
Two years ago, the mere suggestion that she would simultaneously be executive producing network sitcoms — and starring in one of them — would have probably gotten a bigger laugh than any of Whitney Cummings’ stand-up material.
'A lot of little children and people from other countries are like, There’s Mr. Snickers! Then I find myself defending myself. I mean it’s a good thing. I love Snickers. And I freeze them in the refrigerator, but....'
Seth Rogen lost a lot of weight to look the part of a superhero in The Green Hornet, so at least he gained a healthier lifestyle for the sake of his art. I wish audiences could say the same, but The Green Hornet doesn’t exactly provide too many “laughter is the best medicine” moments.