Yesterday, the first reviews of Judd Apatow's Funny People started to trickle out from the major film critics. How'd it do? Well...
Wordy but fun, overreaching yet accurate, Variety's Todd but McCarthy - who gives great analysis with sometimes decent box office projections - has mixed, yet succinct, feelings, to put it lightly. His lede, emphasis mine:
Candid but long-winded, well observed but undisciplined, "Funny People" feels like Judd Apatow's diploma picture marking his move from high school to college as a filmmaker. Amusing and engaging yet lacking in snap and cohesion, this insider's look at the world of standup comics in contempo Los Angeles rings true in its view of the variously warped, stunted and narrow lives of its mostly male denizens. Adam Sandler's central performance as some version of himself is notable for its revelation of callowness and ambivalent self-regard, which will fascinate some fans and turn off others. Curiosity should spur a healthy opening, with likely widely divergent reactions suggesting questionable staying power.
Could've guessed that one, though: Apatow's making a movie with a big heart where the endgame is more than just some great dick jokes and a moral, and that's evident by the premise. How about that third act, when the movie inevitably gets all serious on us to show what an aueteur Apatow is?
While it has its moments, this long latter stretch drains the picture of what little momentum it had and switches the focus to [Leslie Mann's] Laura and her own marital problems, which are annoying and not entirely convincing.
Eegh. McCarthy goes on to slam Leslie Mann, and take us away from the Apatow and Sandler we want to see (like, incidentally, the last third of Funny People, apparently). But what'd the other trade in town think? Silly wittle Hollywood Reporter, show us what you've got:
Bottom Line: A more mature but still funny Judd Apatow comedy whose move into serious human relation issues nearly scuttles the third act...there is a serious side to this film that makes the second half go awry....George's [Adam Sandler's] disease goes into remission — and the air comes out of the movie.
Finally, what do the bloggahs have to say? Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere, Keyboard Cat us out of here:
It's not a "great" film but for me it's a stunningly brave (by which I mean exceptionally candid and self-revealing) one. And funny as shit.
And we have a consensus! While it's funny and great and well, Apatow's noble attempts at painting deep, murky moral colors at the end of his film aren't as good as Apatow's skill at directing a good dick joke. And this is the problem I always had with people who would shove a boxed set of Freaks and Geeks DVDs in my face like it was the second coming of good television that I'd never seen: sure, it has its moments, but I can't see beyond the non-revelatory revelatory moments to understand why it's the best thing in dramedy since Edward Albee.
That being said, I'm willing to give Sandler and Apatow the chance, probably sometime in the next week. The 40 Year-Old Virgin was one of the best sad-clown comedies ever made, and Sandler's done this well, before (Punchdrunk Love). Will you? No? Uh...
Update: Peter Travers of Rolling Stone reviewed it as well, though the review isn't online yet. A point for the Ha-Ha camp, but Travers is known for his studio-happy reviews. He gave it a 3.5/4. Typical Travers, watch the kicker. Emphasis mine, again:
But no worries about this perceptive, deeply entertaining boundary-pusher. It's the work of a major talent. Apatow scores by crafting the film equivalent of a stand-up routine that encompasses the joy, pain, anger, loneliness and aching doubt that go into making an audience laugh. For his people, that really is a matter of life and death.
3:2 on at least one of those being clipped for an ad later this week. Takers? Talk about some awkward turtle.
Awkward Turtle Wikipedia Entry [Wikipedia]