'Funny People' is an adolescent rant

Is there a good reason to see "Funny People?" No. Well, perhaps the first half is moderately funny. It's also a window, however distorted, into the psyche of writer-director Judd Apatow ("The 40-Year Old Virgin"; "Knocked Up") who is consistently focused on the arrested development of the modern American male while assuming that all the psychological twitches and genitalia fixations are the stuff of serious humor and entertainment.

As well, there may not be enough time or therapy for Apatow to sort out why he is so taken with size, shape and placement of the male member; perhaps, in the alternative, he makes movies wherein the characters get to explicitly discuss all the permutations involving the penis, and surrounding baggage, each declarative sentence laced with "f" this and "f" that.

Embedded in this adolescent rant, aka "Funny People," is a potentially interesting story about a wealthy, albeit lonely, standup comedian, George Simmons (Adam Sandler), who learns that he has leukemia. He's told about an experimental drug that has an 8 percent chance of curing him. Of course, George signs on. Meanwhile, believing his time is likely limited, feeling unwell as he takes the drug, this self-absorbed, lowest-common-denominator performer (tacky movies, blue routines) begins to make amends with his family and friends who he has ignored or abused over the years.

Feeling suddenly a bit dependent and vulnerable, he hires as an assistant a wannabe standup comic, Ira (Seth Rogen), a good-hearted, star-struck guy working at a deli while he waits for his big break.

Perhaps Apatow is nearing that point in his life when he feels middle age closing in and thoughts of his own mortality are now nudging his consciousness.

And so the film explores George's reassessment of his life and its meaning. Again, this is passably interesting, though George is neither sympathetic nor likable.

But then midway, "Funny People" shifts focus and direction — as if Apatow wishes to get just so close to life's existential realities and no more — and then veers off into a hapless, shallow cul-de-sac from which he never emerges. That's the last act of the film.

Actually, the characters who offer the most interesting interactions are Leo (Jonah Hill) and Mark (Jason Swartzman), both part of the loosely formed circle of Ira's friends who are, granted, self-absorbed, but in a "we're still good buds though I would walk over your unconscious body for a role in a movie" way. They're there for each other until they aren't. Kind of like this film.

Aliens in the Attic

Let's assume that when the producers and director of "Aliens in the Attic" read the script and listened to the pitch, it was immediately clear that the audience was 'tweens and very early teens. Who else would embrace the concept of four small gremlins, ETs, arriving on earth and setting up shop in the fourth floor attic of a large Victorian house in Michigan? A house slated to be the summer rental for two families, kids, mom and dad, and uncle.

So everyone arrives, room are selected, and even sister Bethany's (Ashley Tisdale) older boyfriend arrives for a visit. Meanwhile, high schooler Tom (Carter Jenkins) is struggling with the high school reality that he's a science nerd and not popular. He'd rather be cool than be smart. A familiar theme that could have been developed and isn't; after all, there are aliens to worry about, meaning aliens in the attic, the air ducts, and the basement (there are only four but they get around).

It's the kids who discover the ETs and realize that they're not here to make friends but as scouts for millions more who're on their way and want to take over the planet.

Let the games begin. The battle is joined with the kids pulling out all the stops: paintball guns, potato-shooting guns and fireworks. And the gremlins are no pushovers. They have a stun gun that is cause for some interesting moments.

This is an average B movie, the acting doable, as are the special effects. Nothing really is gripping and there is not one scary moment. Which would be OK if the kids arriving with their parents are say 7 or 8. The tween-teen crowd generally appreciates a bit more tension. Keep in mind, this is the Harry Potter generation.

Anyway, if time is weighing heavily on those youngsters wandering around the house during the dog days of August, complaining that there's nothing to do, well round them up and take them to see "Aliens in the Attic." It can't hurt.

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