After canvassing the getting of manly wisdom in The 40-Year-Old Virgin and childbirth in Knocked Up, Judd Apatow brings the circle of life to a close with Funny People, which stars Adam Sandler as George Simmons, a popular, Sandleresque movie star diagnosed with a potentially fatal form of leukemia. Mercifully, Funny People is the least bathetic, self-pitying movie about death and dying to come out of Hollywood in many a moon—which isn't to say that George doesn't go through his share of denial, anger, bargaining, and depression en route to acceptance. There's a great scene early on, in which he lapses into a dark, stream-of-consciousness riff during a stand-up set at the same comedy club where he also meets 20-something actor and comic Ira Wright (Seth Rogen), whom he later asks to write jokes for him. Dying or not, George is potentially Ira's big break, and Apatow clearly knows a lot about the competitiveness and petty rivalries of showbiz people desperate to get their feet in the door. In fact, there's so much that's so disarmingly good and sharp about Funny People that you wish the whole movie didn't begin to implode around the halfway point, when George gets a new lease on life and decides to look up his ex-girlfriend, Laura (Leslie Mann), who now has a new life with a businessman husband (Eric Bana) and two young daughters. It's hard enough for a movie to withstand the introduction of a whole set of major characters past the point when most movies are wrapping things up, and it's even harder when those characters feel so incongruous with everything that has come before.
Comedian Sandler stars in a film about comedians. Funny, right?
Opens at Metro and other theaters, Fri., July 31. Rated R. 140 minutes.