“Funny People” is an imperfect winner

Both too long and clustered, the latest Apatow entry is hilarious and human, too.

Sandler: “I’m dying and don’t know what happiness means.” Rogen: “I’m awkward.”

Ashley Goetz

Sandler: “I’m dying and don’t know what happiness means.” Rogen: “I’m awkward.”

âÄúFunny PeopleâÄù DIRECTED BY: Judd Apatow STARRING: Seth Rogen, Adam Sandler, Leslie Mann, Eric Bana RATED: R SHOWING: Area theaters âÄúFunny PeopleâÄù is a flawed beast. The plot chugs along like a freight train whose wheels are barely on the tracks, the characters never truly reveal themselves and, toward the end, the film gets laggy. Suspect elements aside, itâÄôs also uproariously funny, undeniably watchable and, perhaps most importantly, achingly honest. Seth RogenâÄôs character, Ira Wright, is a wallowing stand-up start-up whose jokes, career and life are marred by awkwardness and failure. His roommates, played by Jonah Hill and Jason Schwartzman, are fellow comics and faring slightly better (they have roles in the staggeringly bad sitcom âÄúYo Teach !âÄù). As Rogen bides his time working in a deli and moonlighting as a comic, movie star comedian Adam Sandler, who recently discovered heâÄôs terminally ill, hires Rogen as an assistant at random after catching mere moments of his still-unpolished act. The rest of the film is a cavalcade of scenes that deal with SandlerâÄôs disease, his blossoming friendship with Rogen, his subsequent recovery and, finally, his new-lease-on-life attempts to reclaim his old flame âÄî a now-married ex-actress portrayed by Leslie Mann. That plot doesnâÄôt sound overly ambitious, but Director Judd ApatowâÄôs strengths lay more with joke writing and cast assemblage, not cohesive directing. As a result, the film is a mess of ideas that stumble into each other. ItâÄôs not bad; it just feels like packing multiple movies into one. Despite the sloppy execution, the film does thrive in two more important areas: humor and honesty. First, the funny stuff. Because this film was written by the always male-centric Apatow, thereâÄôs a surplus of dick jokes, but this particular film raises the bar. As sophomoric as it sounds, an overwhelming portion of the filmâÄôs humor is derived from dick/ball jokes. Sounds stupid, yes, but the roll-on-floor moments are there in force. Another running gag is poking fun at SandlerâÄôs characterâÄôs suspect roles of the past (a tactic that must have hit more than a little home for Sandler himself). In past films, heâÄôs a man trapped in an infantâÄôs body, a merman and a hot-dog-eating champ fueled by the loss of a wife. All are delightful send-ups and relegate SandlerâÄôs goofiness so that his main role maintains (relative) seriousness. While itâÄôs true that âÄúFunny PeopleâÄù is, in fact, extremely funny, itâÄôs the latter half of the film where the stakes are truly raised, and ApatowâÄôs writing doesnâÄôt falter. As Sandler contemplates wrecking his exâÄôs home and Rogen wrestles with loyalty, thereâÄôs an underlying believability. Apatow claims the theme behind all his work is everyday people, struggling with not being jerks. That may sound trivial, but being a âÄúgood guyâÄù is no light endeavor, and Rogen and SandlerâÄôs grappling with it rings remarkably true. In the end, âÄúFunny PeopleâÄù is merely a good film. Not great, but certainly worth the ticket price. Apatow deals with darker tones than in previous films, and itâÄôs clear he needs some practice in doing so. But the funny moments donâÄôt cheapen the dreary, and the dreary donâÄôt drag down the laughs. In a film absolutely bursting with cameos, the best comes from a certain rapper who, in the end, provides an absurd and stupid moment that doubles as the filmâÄôs most philosophical revelation. And such is the cocktail of mixed results that make up the wholly endorsable âÄúFunny People.âÄù