Funny People (2009)
★★ / ★★★★
“Funny People,” written and directed by Judd Apatow, stars a bunch of funny people: Adam Sandler as a senior comedian who discovers that he has a fatal disease, Seth Rogen as an aspiring comedian who Sandler hires to write jokes for him, Jonah Hill and Jason Schwartzman as Rogen’s flatmates, Leslie Mann as Sandler’s ex-lover and Eric Bana as Mann’s unfaithful husband. Unfortunately, the material was not as funny as I expected it to be. In fact, it was quite serious because the lead character was obviously depressed because of his doomed fate. There were a few jokes with chuckling from here and there but there were no laugh-out-loud funny moments as they were in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” or “Knocked Up.” If Apatow was aiming for some sort of a dark comedy because it did (or was supposed to) have jokes about death, then I believe it completely failed on that level. I had major problems with Sandler’s character because I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to feel sorry for him. Not for one second did I feel bad for him because he was a jerk even to those who obviously cared for him. When his character finally met up with Mann after years of not seeing each other, he fell in love with her all over again but I didn’t buy it. After all, how could a guy who didn’t value himself and his friendships value some kind of a romantic relationship (and a flimsy one at that)? The film wasn’t logical and it should have been because this picture was supposed to be for adults. I was more interested in the angle regarding what it took to be a successful comedian instead of Sandler’s so-called plight. I enjoyed the cameos from Sarah Silverman, Andy Dick, Charles Fleischer, Eminem, Ray Romano, and others. With such a brilliant cast who are very funny in other movies, this film failed to take risks. Instead it featured one contrived and sometimes uncomfortable moments on top of one another. If it weren’t for the breathers (such as the cameos) that had nothing to do with the drama in the character’s depressing lives, I would have been harsher with this picture. If you’re a fan of any of the names mentioned, then by all means, see it. However, I warn you to not expect too much because it doesn’t have enough meat to carry a two-hour-and-thirty-minute feature.
★★★★ / ★★★★
The people who claim that this is another “Borat”-style kind of documentary are the exact same people who believe in god to such an extent that they’re willing to delude themselves that Bill Maher is not asking questions worth answering. I do think that Maher asks valid questions to the religious individuals featured (whose religions range from Christianity, Islam, Mormonism and Scientology) but he is smart enough to not let go of that trademark sense of humor that made him so famous. Even though I was born a Catholic, I do not affiliate myself with any religious group because, to be blunt, I think the whole thing is a crock. Even though my parents are Catholics, they provided me the freedom to choose and think for myself so I’m going to exercise it until the day I die. When I watch documentaries that challenge any religion, excitement comes over me because I love taking apart people’s arguments from both sides and decide which side is weaker. Although Maher did bring up a plethora of excellent points, I can admit that there were times when I wished he went straight for the jugular instead of dancing around the issue and eventually reaching it. However, Maher had enough insight to keep me on my feet and such insights made my arguments that much stronger the next time I get into a debate about religion. Another thing I liked about this film was its fast cuts to random images like Jonah Hill, cartoons aimed for children, older films that tell a story from the Bible, nuclear weapons going off, and even Maher’s childhood videos–all of which serve to provide a sense of humor and to support certain arguments on how ludicrous biblethumpers really are. One downside about this documentary, however, was that it lost a little bit of that great momentum in the final twenty minutes. There were less laughs because the jokes weren’t as sharp even though it’s still making fun of religion and people who build their lives around it. I highly recommend this film especially to agnostics and atheists. I doubt anyone with a strong set of religious beliefs will change their minds. There were a couple of quotes that stood out to me but this quote pretty much embodied the film’s argument: “Religion is dangerous because it allows human beings who don’t have all the answers to think that they do. Most people would think it’s wonderful when someone says, “I’m willing, Lord! I’ll do whatever you want me to do!” Except that since there are no gods actually talking to us, that void is filled in by people with their own corruptions and limitations and agendas.”