Funny Games (2007)
Directed by Michael Haneke
Starring Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Michael Pitt
Funny People (2009)
Directed by Judd Apatow
Starring Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen
Frequently, cable TV affords us the opportunity to check out past and current films of note that we either missed or had no earthly desire to commit time, money, and a trip to the local cineplex in order to experience them. Being bored and on the couch often rounds out our cable movie-viewing trifecta. Here's two instances in which we wish we'd read a book instead.
German director Michael Haneke caused quite a stir with his scene-for-scene remake of his 1997 film Funny Games, the newer version specifically for the American market. Why? Well, you see, he wanted to make a statement on how desensitized American audiences are to blood and gore and violence. But in a luridly mocking tone.
The gist: a couple of white-gloved, squash player-dressed teenage serial killers hold a middle class family hostage at their Long Island summer home, inflicting mental and physical cruelty, culminating in death. (A good chunk of this occurs off-camera and is coupled with smarmy instances of breaking the "fourth-wall".) The subtext: Americans are bourgeois, dumbass consumers of the likes of Saw, Hostel, etc. who don't know any better.
Maybe. But Haneke failed twice: his approach is more damaging than engaging; and he remade his movie to do so. Like Johnny Rotten once famously said, "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?"
You all know we are no fans of Adam Sandler 'round here. Nope.
And while there were some funny moments in The 40 Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, we're really tired of the kind of purposely anti-comedy Judd Apatow and co. seem to revel in. Seriously, Superbad? Pineapple Express? Year One? Michael Cera?!!
So now we get the Sandler-Apatow double whammy that is Funny People; its title a HUGE misnomer based on the half-hour featurette and the TV ads we've seen. (The movie opens on Friday, Aug. 1st.) Sandler plays a famous comic who's told he's got less than a year to live. One night he performs at the same comedy club as a struggling stand-up (Rogen) who he hires as personal assisstant/writer/friend. Stand-ups perform. Hilarity ensues. Well, no. Not really.
Unlike the 1988 Tom Hanks-Sally Field vehicle Punchline, which was a drama about stand-up comedians, Funny People makes a failed attempt at being a comedy. Of course, our take is solely based on a half-hour featurette and the TV ads we've only witnessed, so the rest of Funny People could have some great jokes in it. But since the norm is to always put your best stuff in the promotional material, we highly doubt it.