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MOVIE REVIEW: Funny People

On Dennis Miller's radio show the other day, I heard an interview with Adam Sandler. Miller said Funny People was one of the best movies he's ever seen. He then mentioned some big-name classic comedies that this should be compared to.

Now, I'm used to actors appearing on the late night shows, and the hosts saying how great the latest film is. I see it, and wonder what they were thinking. Until I then have to wonder what I was thinking. No person doing interviews wants to tell the star of the film that they didn't like it.

This is almost addressed in this movie, when we see a poster for a film called "Mer-man." Sandler is a male mermaid, and admits it was a horrible movie but a huge paycheck. When people see the poster they always say, without much conviction, "Good movie."

But there's no way Dennis Miller would've praised it as much as he did if it weren't great. Even if he did Saturday Night Live with Sandler for years.

And at the screening the following day, I have to say, I was very pleasantly surprised.

I remember the Tom Hanks/Sally Field movie Punchline. I thought it was awful. Mainly because, the comedians that hit the stage weren't funny (I remember one critic said "That's the point. Not all comedians are funny.")

First of all, that wasn't the point. And second, if that is the point of Punchline, well…you have a movie about comedians that's unfunny.

It would be like if Backdraft came out, and none of the firefighters were putting out fires. And the explanation for that would be "Firefighters usually go a month before they have to put out fires. They spend their time playing cards or shooting baskets at the fire station. This is more realistic." Yeah, maybe; also less entertaining.

Funny People gets it right. It shows comedians that are actually funny. And even the one comedian that isn't so funny (played well by Aziz Ansari)…might not be hysterically funny, but you can see why a crowd would be into him (he's dirty, and has lots of energy). I'm guessing a lot of comedians will watch this film and compare Ansari to Dane Cook.

Some people might have a problem with the plot - a famous movie actor is diagnosed with a terminal illness - and decides to return to his roots. He remembers the times doing stand-up as being the best of his life, and he returns to the stage. He also thinks about the love that got away (played nicely by Judd Apatows real wife, Leslie Mann).

I have to admit, as great as she was in the movie, that part of the film does drag a bit.

Seth Rogen is playing the same character we've seen so many times now, but it's great to watch in this movie.

His roommates, played nicely by Jonah Hill as a sharp comedy writer (and very competitive), and the big ego of Jason Schwartzman who has the starring role in a sitcom about a hip teacher. The money is great, but the comedic material the show provides is awful.

There's a scene where Rogen is hired by Sandler to write some jokes for a private show, and he gets his first taste of the high life. And he likes it. Who wouldn't? He's in a limo, has a nice meal on a private jet, and gets to listen to James Taylor open for him. Although he does ask Sandler a very interesting question: How the hell do you follow Fire and Rain?

The sad moments of this film don't really work for me, for a number of reasons.

Sandlers character is such a jerk, it's hard to ever root for him. His ex-wife is a bit flaky, so it's hard to root for her.

I do love the realistic touches the film provides.

As much of a jerk as Sandler is, we see him being nice to his maid and gardeners. It's not one of those Hollywood clichés where the star is just bashing every person that works for him.

Because the comedy in this film is so crude, I'm guessing many critics won't be fond of it. It's a shame, because there's no doubt this is going to be on my top 10 list of best films for the year.

If you don't mind your comedians working blue, catch this movie.

I'm giving it an A-.