Adam Sandler + Seth Rogen + Jonah Hill + Jason Schwartzman should equal comedy genius. Sadly Funny People, out a week on Friday, doesn't add up. Instead, a soft script and obscure purpose let the performers down and left us disappointed.
George Simmons (Sandler) is a hugely successful and famous American comedian with everything he could ever want - a mansion of gigantic proportions, women at his beck and call and bathtubs of money. Unfortunately for George, as he discovers at the start of the film, he also has rare form of leukaemia from which no amount of cash can save him. Realising just how empty his life is - family rifts, broken hearts and no real friends to speak of - he returns to his stand-up stomping ground. There he bumps into Ira Wright (Rogen), who is trying to make it on the comedy circuit, and takes him under his wing. Ira, while struggling as a performer, has no problems when it comes to writing for George; George confides in Ira about his terminal situation and thus a friendship forms, which we see enfold as the story goes on. And on.
Written, produced and directed by Judd Apatow, Funny People is not one of his finer works like The 40 Year Old Virgin or, to a lesser extent, Knocked Up. Gold stars go to Seth Rogen who easily outshines Sandler with a reliably amusing performance as nice, do-gooder Ira. As Ira's flatmates, Jonah Hill and Jason Schwartzman have a fantastic dynamic: Schwartzman as the egotistical Mark, who has his own pathetic sitcom and happens to thinks he is Gods gift to women, and Hill delivering his usual line in dead-pan humour, and making the most of his irresistible screen charm.
The problem is the old-timer, Sandler. His "miserable George" is almost too convincing and his "funny George" no way near enough. He fails to provide any laugh-out-loud moments and to watch him can be a chore. Even in a relatively unchallenging role, Apatow's wife, Leslie Mann, steals one of the biggest laughs as George's romantic interest, Laura, in a hilarious scene when she confronts her cheating Australian husband and attempts to mock his accent.
To be fair to Sandler, the script lacks clarity and direction. Every comedy should have a storyline, but the melodramatic meanderings of Funny People are a step too far. It’s a shame that with such a strong comic line-up the end product wasn’t more memorable - or indeed less drawn-out - but Hill, Schwartzman and Rogen just about make this one worthwhile. Words by Hannah Berry
Funny People is out on 28 August