I cannot stomach Adam Sandler’s brand of so-called humor. In my opinion he is utterly talentless, crude, and incapable of getting any kind of laugh without the use of smut at every turn. Just like a plethora of other non-talents, he got his big break by being selected for that breeding ground of over-rated comedians, Saturday Night Live in 1990. Presumably, the producers saw unique ability oozing from every pore and before long he was also writing for the show. Movies followed and the youth of America (and elsewhere) fancied his gutter language, uninspired scribblings and third rate acting. He has since made millions. This movie, made almost 20 years after he graced SNL, is a prime example of how he has failed to improve his act one iota. Not that he cares. The younger generation, those same individuals who remain convinced that rap ‘singers’ spouting doggerel are gifted, continue to idolize him, flock to his pictures (well, most of them), and turn most of his ‘comedy’ albums platinum. And it will never cease to baffle me. It would seem that there is still no shortage of human beings who would not recognize genuine ability if it bobbed up in their Corn Flakes!
Rogen and Sandler
I forced myself to watch Funny People from beginning to end, wondering if I was ever going to hear one clever line of dialogue, one sentence that might make me at least snigger. After all, given its title, one might, at the very worst, expect to encounter a few laughs here and there. But there was nothing. I should have anticipated this as I squirmed through the opening sequence. I read later that it was actual footage taken by the writer of this screenplay, a man named Judd Apatow, of his pal Sandler in their younger days. It focused on their penchant for making inane prank calls that were unimaginative, stupid and annoying. I can barely imagine a couple of five year-olds getting a kick out of this kind of thing, (it is at their level of intelligence – or just), but for so-called adults it is pitiful.
A few months ago I accidentally sat through one of Sandler’s earlier monstrosities, the idiotic Going Overboard (1989), a movie so bad that it is not even mentioned in the man’s resume. Funny People is only marginally better. The quality of the writing is about the same; the direction is slightly superior – but only slightly. The ‘f’ word is used 154 times throughout the running time of 146 minutes. It is uttered multiple times in line after line of dialogue for no apparent reason whatsoever. The jokes (and I use that description very generously) are filthy, crude, cheap, nasty and universally unfunny. Mostly, the script consists of rampant penis jokes, each one recognizable for its dreary lack of wit or style. Scariest of all, Sandler & Co are forever expounding on how hilarious they are.
His character, a successful stand-up comic named George Simmons, is told he has a 92% chance of dying of Leukemia, so he sets off on a final stand-up tour. But he has lost his mojo, so he hires a gag writer, (Ira Wright played by Seth Rogen), to write him some laughs. He shouldn’t have bothered because nobody in this woeful film is capable of writing anything even remotely humorous. During the course of the picture a whole swag of newcomers to the field of comedy get to strut their stuff. And they are God-awful too. Every single one of them. It is almost as if only show tenth-raters were selected, so as not to make Sandler look like the hack he is. Eminem actually gets a 10-second spot. Maybe he was good. I don’t know. I had well and truly switched off by then.
Here are a few samples of the ‘hilarious’ dialogue contained in Funny People:
Ira Wright: ‘I masturbate so much with hand cream, I forget people use it for shit other than masturbating. Literally, when I’m in public and I see someone pull out hand cream, I’m like, ‘This guy’s about to jerk off!’
Daisy: ‘I am sick of these guys’ rap songs. They say, ‘Girl, drop it like it’s hot’, ‘Shake it.’ I want to make a rap song that says, ‘Boy, brush your teeth, give me your jacket, I’m fucking freezing.’
Leo: ‘I wanna put my eye-glasses on your asshole so it looks like you’re blowing me when I fuck you in the ass, you jerk.’
George Simmons: ‘All you fuckin’ talk about is jacking off and farting. You think a girl is gonna come up to you afterward and be like, ‘Oh, would you just jack off for me, and then fart in my face?’ That’s fuckin’ insane. Do you want to get laid, ever?’
Laura: ‘No cussing in your stand-up.’
George Simmons: ‘That takes out half my act.’
‘Cussing’ accounts for about half the movie too. There are scores more lines that are even worse than those above, but I think you get the picture.
One example of the standard of the plot is the scene in which Simmons asks Ira to show him his penis. Director/writer Apatow, who once roomed with Sandler at college, was delighted to tell David Letterman on his TV show that his now famous room-mate had asked him one day: ‘Let me see your penis?’ Whether or not his request was fulfilled is neither here nor there, but Apatow used that memorable moment as the basis for a scene in the movie. Inspirational.
Interestingly, Sandler has recently admitted to experiencing guilt for having to recite filthy sex jokes about women in the picture because, he says, he has two daughters at home. The guy almost always has total control over the content of his movies, so I don’t buy that statement for a moment. Besides, Apatow has since confirmed that the lead players in Funny People (Sandler included) were asked to write their own material for their stand-up routines! So much for the guilt trip.
Like a number of Adam Sandler efforts, this was a box-office bomb. It was budgeted at around $75 million, (although for the life of me I cannot see where the money was spent), but only grossed $71 million worldwide, yet even that return astonishes me. There must be a lot of Sandler fans out there who would pay to watch him in a dog food commercial. Just how much of that $75 million was his fee is anyone’s guess, but you can bet it was several millions. I doubt if he would bother getting out of bed for anything less.