Funny People is intended to be Judd Apatow’s sophisticated comedy, the one where he grows out of dick jokes and makes a multifaceted movie about real people and real issues (not that 40-year-old virgins and one-night-stands that result in knocked-up women aren’t real issues). And in a way, it is a very grown-up movie. But there are still plenty of dick jokes and blatant displays of immaturity to keep Apatow fans happy (what do you expect with a cast that includes Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen?). Sandler plays George Simmons, a mega-popular comedian — and kind of an ass — who makes mega-crappy movies that sound a lot like the ones Sandler makes (my favorite: My Best Friend Is a Robot). George gets some bad news from his doctor in the very first scene: He has leukemia and might not have long to live. So he returns to his roots as a stand-up comic and taps struggling comedian Ira Wright (a svelte Rogen) to write jokes for him and to help out around his mansion. At nearly two and a half hours, Funny People sags a bit during the second half, when the movie takes a turn into Apatow’s usual messy-romance territory. It’s not as consistently funny as The 40-Year-Old Virgin or Knocked Up, but it is a stronger movie and Apatow’s best film. The stellar supporting cast includes many Apatow regulars — including Jonah Hill as (what else?) Ira’s smartass roommate and Leslie Mann (Apatow’s wife) as George’s ex-girlfriend — as well as tons of cameos by real-life comedians and musicians. And Sandler has never been better, pulling off funny and serious in the same breath. Funny People is sprawling and ambitious in its reach, which is even more remarkable as post-Apatow movies like The Hangover up the comedic ante. Leave it to Apatow — one of the smartest and funniest filmmakers working these days — to raise the stakes. *** 1/2
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