Adam Sandler (Punch-Drunk Love, Spanglish) is back in a semi-dramatic role in this new comedy from writer/director/producer Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up). Sandler plays George, a very successful yet self-involved stand-up comedian and movie actor who learns that he has a life-threatening disease. He befriends Ira (Seth Rogen), a struggling up-and-coming comedian who works at a deli and has yet to perfect his onstage persona. Friendless George hires Ira to be his personal assistant and writer -- and indirectly, to be his friend.
George and Ira form a close bond as George teaches Ira how to win over a crowd and Ira helps the dying George find closure in his legacy. Too bad the movie didn't concentrate fully on this budding friendship. Because it is here, thanks to fine acting by Rogen (the saving grace of both Observe and Report, Monsters vs. Aliens), that the movie is at its best. But instead, Apatow complicates things with the side stories, including one with his real-life wife Leslie Mann and their two daughters. Mann plays Laura, an old flame now married to Australian hunk, Clarke (Eric Bana). Will love rekindle between George and Laura? And, if so, where does that leave Laura and Clarke's two kids (Maude and Iris Apatow)? None of what transpires here works -- nor is there much entertainment in the scenes with Ira's other friends, played by Jonah Hill and Jason Schwartzman.
I'm not quite sure which target market Apatow was trying to reach with this movie. I'm sure 13 year-old boys will love the endless penis references (I lost count at about 100), but 13 year-olds shouldn't be viewing an R-rated movie. Don't get me wrong, there is plenty of good comedy here for adults -- and some great cameos from the likes of Eminem and Ray Romano among others. And there are a few touching dramatic scenes as well. But it's all a bit schizo in its presentation. On the set last year, Apatow pointed out that "this is a hard movie to talk about. It's a lot of different movies in one." Unfortunately, that's the problem. Apatow tried to make a raunchy comedy, a romantic comedy, a drama, a buddy film, etc. -- all rolled into one. And for the most part, he failed to make it work. After sitting through the overlong two-and-a-half hour film, I really didn't care if George lived or died. [Rated R; Opens Friday]