A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that director Judd Apatow's latest comedy is loaded with the strong language (from "f--k" to "p---y" and then some), adult behavior, and sexualized material (including lots of penis jokes and one scene with naked breasts) you'd expect from the man behind Knocked Up and The 40-Year-Old Virgin. But it's also an honest, sincere drama about the challenges of modern life. Look past the crude stuff, and you'll see that this is actually a serious, heartfelt film masquerading as a light comedy.
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What's the story?
George Simmons (Adam Sandler) is an immensely successful comedian -- film star, icon, multimillionaire. And he's dying of a rare form of leukemia. Ira (Seth Rogen) works at a deli counter while also trying to hone his stand-up act. One night Ira catches George's eye and gets hired to write jokes -- but it becomes apparent that what George has really hired is a friend. George mentors Ira, and Ira offers George some help reconnecting with his ex-girlfriend Laura (Leslie Mann) as he prepares to die. But when George goes into remission, everyone has to figure out what to do, now that the cosmic joke is on them.
Is it any good?
Funny People looks like a show business melodrama, and it is -- but it's also a little more. It offers a look at the messy nature of getting old and getting tired, at how easy it is to think that big gestures will change our lives -- as opposed to small, incremental efforts. Funny People has plenty of gags and laughs, but it's also much smarter -- and much more serious -- about what's behind the laughter than you might think.
After the anarchic fun of Knocked Up and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, writer-director Judd Apatow's third film is a fascinating series of contrasts -- a look at the seemingly trivial world of stand-up comedy, a potty-mouthed meditation on life and death, a seemingly familiar story that takes several unexpected deviations. Yes, FUNNY PEOPLE is long (two hours and 20 minutes), but it's also strong -- funny, rich, real, and messy. Part of that comes in both how the film hews close to the actors' real lives (Sandler as a multimillionaire comedian renowned for lowbrow high-concept films is hardly a stretch) and the ways in which it doesn't (George is an unmarried man-child, while Sandler is a married father of two). Rogen -- a successful, talented comedian in real life -- pulls off a particularly tricky acting job by conveying the nerves and neuroses of an unsuccessful, struggling one.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the movie's style of humor impacts its more dramatic themes. Do the two "sides" of the movie go well together? Would the movie be as entertaining if the humor was less crude?
Does the fact that someone's dying automatically make them a better person? And does a reprive from a terminal diagnosis automatically mean that someone will lead a better life?
Is stand-up comedy just entertainment, or is it an art form? Are stand-up comedians all tortured artists, or is it something that has its ups and downs?
- In theaters: July 31, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: November 24, 2009
- Cast: Adam Sandler, Leslie Mann, Seth Rogen
- Director: Judd Apatow
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 140 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language and crude sexual humor throughout, and some sexuality
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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