If you're someone who believes that laughter is the best medicine, then Judd Apatow - director of 'The 40-Year-Old Virgin' and 'Knocked Up', writer of 'Pineapple Express', producer of 'Superbad' and 'Drillbit Taylor' - has done plenty of good work these past few years. Apatow's mix of heartfelt sentiment and belly laughs has seen him become comedy royalty in Hollywood. Now he wants to be taken a bit more seriously by audiences.

George Simmons (Sandler) is one of America's most famous comedians. He's just been told that he has acute myeloid leukaemia and using an experimental treatment has an 8% chance of living.

Ira Wright (Rogen) is a struggling stand-up who sleeps on a friend's couch, works at a deli and has to pay his co-workers to come see him at open mic gigs.

It seems that the only chance of George meeting Ira is if he orders a tub of potato salad, but when he arrives unannounced at an open mic gig the legend sees something in the hopeful that reminds him of his own struggles. And so he takes Ira under his wing. Sort of. Ira becomes George's assistant, writer and agony aunt as a very rich man tries to make sense of an emotionally impoverished life, while a very poor man tries to keep some perspective in the celebrity fog.

A comedy trying to be a drama or the other way around - you're never quite sure with 'Funny People'. It's too long (nearly two-and-a-half hours), too rambling and has that whiff of vanity project. Instead of focussing solely on the relationship between George and Ira, Apatow has some supporting characters (Hill, Schwartzman) that you care nothing about and brings in George's ex (Mann) and her husband (Bana) as the story starts to really drag - their presence doesn't turn things around.

There are a couple of moments when Rogen and Sandler spark off each other, but the script is too weak to get the most out of either of them. Apatow makes sure there's plenty about the price of fame (jets, huge paydays, hassle-free sex - some will ask what's not to like), second chances, the power to change and whether the small time is where the real magic lies, but you won't leave the cinema feeling enlightened or inspired. And in trying to say some important things, he has made his most forgettable film.

Harry Guerin