The 1968 film version of FUNNY GIRL was an absolute masterpiece, and as perfect as a musical-comedy film can be. A sequel to this classic was not something that was ever needed to be made, but since the original was so successful (FUNNY GIRL was the highest-grossing film of 1968) and well-loved, it was pretty obvious why producer Ray Stark wanted to make this follow-up so badly. It took awhile, but he eventually convinced Streisand to sign on and reprise her role as Fanny Brice, with Herbert Ross (who had staged the musical numbers in the original film and had directed Streisand in the box office hit THE OWL AND THE PUSSYCAT) set to direct. Although the film was generally well-received by most critics and proved to be another big box office hit, many fans of the sweet-natured original did not care for the slightly more harsh and cynical tone of this follow-up, and it has since fallen out of favor with many Streisand fans.
While no film could ever recapture the easy charm and beautiful sentiment of FUNNY GIRL, FUNNY LADY is highly entertaining when viewed on it's own terms. Streisand plays the now-hard-bitten Fanny with a depth and maturity that is very different from her characterization in the first film, but almost equally as stunning. Many viewers often complain that James Caan was badly miscast as Billy Rose. While Caan is physically wrong for the role of the short, unattractive Rose, he still comes across as oddly likable, and he has a nice comic chemistry with Streisand. Roddy McDowell is fun as Fanny's assistant, and veteran hoofer Ben Vereen brings down the house with a incredible, almost gravity-defying dance routine. Omar Shariff also returns for two very effective scenes as Nick Arnstein, the man Fanny will always love, but can't seem to live with.
Though Streisand is in terrific singing voice, the song score is a bit more hit-and-miss. The period standards that Streisand vividly performs (particularly the bittersweet "More Than You Know," the gospel-infused "Great Day," and the heart-wrenching "If I Love Again") are absolutely fantastic, however, the heavily-promoted original songs from Cabaret composers Kander and Ebb are a major disappointment. The intended show-stopper "How Lucky Can You Get" is fine number that is made memorable by Streisand's scorching performance, however, the remainder of the original songs ("Blind Date," "Let's Here It For Me") are pretty forgettable despite Streisand's impassioned vocals. Fortunately, these few mediocre numbers (and the rather predictable narrative) are flaws that are very easy to forgive. No, FUNNY LADY doesn't hold a candle to FUNNY GIRL, but the film remains a fun and enjoyable ride that should entertain those who loved the original.