Funny People: In Which Sandler and Apatow Don’t Make It to the Altar and No One Laughs or Cries. Part I.

Dear CF,

Your reaction to the Funny People movie poster was eerily prescient. You have powers. Be my psychic? Also, I’d like to point out that James Thurber wrote his autobiography, “My Life and Hard Times,” at 40. As a joke. Would that Apatow’s self-awareness ran so deep when he decided to mount a Career Retrospective at 42.

Instead we get Funny People, an effort to weave Apatow and Sandler’s comedy styles into one movie that both moves and amuses. It’s a threnody on love and loss, on dicks and disease, on the stand-up comedy circuit and the growth that fails to happen there. It’s the story of Sandler’s juvenilia and bad movies. It’s a chronicle of Apatow’s hardships before he made it big, a novella on how Power and Money isolate and how humor isolates even more.  It’s the beaten horse of Rogen’s weight loss (the movie wants us to know that he’s thinner, and that it knows that Jonah Hill is the fat version of Rogen because Rogen used to be fat and now he’s not as fat. Hilarity ensues). It’s a limerick on the hotness of Judd’s wife (she is hot) and the cuteness of his kids (they are cute), a villanelle on Eric Bana as Richard Gere, a sestina of movie and television cliches and a sonnet on how cliched movie cliches are (they are very cliche).  It tried to solve all this by plotting three semi-interesting movies, mashing them into one and resolving none of them.

I left the theater feeling befuddled and a little cheated by the poster, which seems, in retrospect, like a malicious exercise in deceit. In unrelated news, I am completing an Online Sexual Harassment Training and Survey. So, in the spirit of surveys and procrastination, I declare the birth of an informalish poll* for what the movie poster should actually have said (SPOILER ALERT):

Funny People:

  1. A show about a dying guy. Who gets better!!!!
  2. How he found love—and lost it because he inexplicably becomes an uncaring douche when her kid sings a song from CATS. (Yeah, yeah, you didn’t see that coming because he saved her film reel and her jeans and let her dog eat peanut butter off his face and played with the kids. But he checked his phone. He is a jerk and has learned nothing from his brush with the Kind of Cancer that Makes You Tired After a Game of Basketball Or a Brisk Swim.)
  3. How a nice dull man who recently lost weight meets a slightly older and funnier man. No one changes much—but there are twelve standup scenes in which you see them not change much. Also: penises.
  4. An existential look at life, death and unmeaning—not Sandler’s (he’s just a clever decoy) but the ghosts of sometime comedians, their shows and careers. Andy Dick will depress you. Paul Reiser will make you weep. By the time Norm Macdonald shows up you’ll be shotgunning beers. Watch them be dicks to each other and get upstaged by Eminem.
  5. Friendship Is: writing jokes for the dim dude you hired to write jokes for you, after he ruined your shot at your true love by blabbing inappropriate things to her children.
  6. Friendship Is: having inconclusive fights with your roommates who sell out to work on a bad TV show and sleep with the girl you sorta like. But you were an asshole too, and that’s life or something. Also, a slightly older dude in your line of work tells you these are the best years of your life, and not to lose touch with these guys who you kinda hate. So. You know. The end.
  7. ONE-TIME ROOMMATES, LIFETIME RIVALS: The FINAL SHOWDOWN between deposed comedy king Adam Sandler and bromance czar Judd Apatow (played by Rogen) to determine (here’s your twist) Who Gets to Be the Main Character in the Serious Movie?

*Turns out the options, in an unconscious tribute to the film, got way too long (TWSS). So I can’t create a formal poll. However, my vote, with explanations, sequins, and penises, is here.**
**Or, er, will be shortly.



The Old Soft Neck Sentimentality

Dear Millicent,

Quick question/rant for you: why do the promotional materials for Apatow’s new movie Funny People throw me into instant crank?

Exhibit A:


Note the immense effort to have a slack face? They want us to know they aren’t funny, but they are real, tender and sour (just like us!).

Exhibit b:

apatow 2

Note the vague teariness? The soft necks?  Like the posters for The Big Chill, we are supposed to understand that these people love each other.  And, like The Big Chill, the posturing is overly precious, shouting the sentimentality instead of earning it.  When I see these Funny People billboards around town I am not charmed.  I am instantly irritated (can you tell?), and feel as if I am being played.  Trust us, Rogen’s awkward teddy bear lean and Sandler’s melancholic grin say to me each time, we are going to be serious here, but like, funny, you know, and well, you are going to think we are really deep after seeing this movie.  It’s amazing when guys like us cry.  The blonde woman is the only one I trust in the poster.  She looks like she is doing her job.

I sound so bitter here, and I don’t think I really am.  I am actually excited about this movie, and look forward to seeing it.  This poster is the only part that is repelling me.  I usually don’t have strong reactions to posters beyond amusement.  This one kind of makes me want to punch Rogen in the neck (and I am not a hitter, really!).

Also, the irritation is compounded by the grand announcement at the start of the trailer that announces “The Third Film by Judd Apatow.”  It all seems so self aware (and not in the adorably self-conscious way that increases charm).  The gesture here is so broad, and hopefully more transparent than the movie itself.

Am I wrong about The Big Chill?  

big chill 3

Your own softnecked, shoulder-leaning galumpf,