Like many of you, I saw Funny People this weekend, and I had some mixed feelings about the uneven film: parts were high-larious, other parts a lot less so. Even though Judd Apatow is famous for blending low-brow humor with substantive emotional themes, the tonal inconsistencies in the film definitely threw me, as did three notable changes from the rest of the Apatow oeuvre. These aren’t complaints so much as observations, and there are some mild spoilers ahead:
1. A lack of weed smoking and stoner humor
Herbal refreshments have played a big part in other Apatow comedies: Weed is basically a character Knocked Up, and the dudes in 40-Year-Old Virgin smoke a ton. Unless I missed it, there’s only one scene of a character partaking (Jason Schwartzman’s Mark takes one hit) and one tossed-off pot-smoking joke at the very end.
2. A love-interest girl who’s one of the guys
Historically, Apatow’s female characters haven’t been cut from the same cloth as his male ones: In Virgin, Catherine Keener’s Trish is a mature, upstanding parent, more of a good sport than an actual jokester. Knocked Up has taken some heat for its portrayal of women, though it played more to me as a story of contrasts — sometimes women can be controlling, uptight, and unpredictable; sometimes men can be lazy, self-absorbed, and unreliable. But Funny People‘s ostensible romantic pairing — Adam Sandler’s George and Leslie Mann’s Laura — didn’t really do it for me. The romantic heart of this movie was Seth Rogen’s Ira and his adorable deadpan neighbor, Aubrey Plaza’s Daisy (pictured). She’s as detached and ironic as Ira’s roommates, as sexually liberated as they are (or claim to be), and she’s a comedian, just like them.
3. Not quite enough from the supporting cast
The vivid secondary characters in 40-Year-Old Virgin are what make the movie so enjoyable, but even at a sprawling 146 minutes, Funny People couldn’t quite make room for all its players. All that online promotion with Aziz Ansari’s Raaaaaaaandy (link contains NSFW language), and he’s in the movie for like, five seconds? I wanted to see more of how terrible Yo, Teach was, or better bits of Jonah Hill’s Leo’s stand-up, or sillier back-and-forth between RZA’s Chuck and Ira. The one exception: I definitely got my fill of Eric Bana.
There are lots of other ways Funny People does and does not conform to the Apatow model. What’d you think, PopWatchers? Is this a departure — or an aberration? A new direction or a gruesome misstep?
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Photo credit: Tracy Bennett