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Funny People DVD Review (Unrated & Theatrical 1-Disc)

Funny People movie poster Funny People

Theatrical Release: July 31, 2009 / Running Time: 146 Minutes (Theatrical), 153 Minutes (Extended) / Rating: R (Theatrical), Unrated (Extended)

Writer/Director: Judd Apatow

Cast: Adam Sandler (George Simmons), Seth Rogen (Ira Wright), Leslie Mann (Laura), Eric Bana (Clarke), Jonah Hill (Leo Koenig), Jason Schwartzman (Mark Taylor Jackson), Aubrey Plaza (Daisy Danby), Maude Apatow (Mable), Iris Apatow (Ingrid), RZA (Chuck), Aziz Ansari (Randy), Torsten Voges (Dr. Lars), Allan Wasserman (Dr. Stevens)


Adam Sandler followed up his most family-friendly film, last Christmas' Bedtime Stories, with his raunchiest R-rated one to date. Funny People teams Sandler with longtime friend and infrequent collaborator Judd Apatow. Apatow has been discussed and analyzed as much as any behind-the-camera filmmaker this decade and he has produced 15 movies in just five years. But Funny People offers only the third complete Apatow experience, meaning the 41-year-old former stand-up has written, directed, and produced it.
The combination isn't hard to recognize; the films he's only produced (among them, Superbad, Pineapple Express, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall) may feature the same faces, racy humor, and genuine heart, but the more personally-involving ones (The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up) seem to carry more ambition, more pathos, and more of wife Leslie Mann and her two Apatow children.

Funny People chiefly centers on two people on opposite ends of the comedy spectrum. George Simmons (Sandler) is a famous movie star, who rose up from the world of stand-up to bankability and all that comes with it: dumb blockbusters, a huge house with complete staff, a kitchen counter full of offered scripts, a garage full of freely-obtained items, and guaranteed sex with any woman he chooses. Ira Wright (Seth Rogen) has aspirations, but for now he's got to work a deli counter, perform stand-up for free, and sleep on a pull-out bed in a house he shares with two roommates (Jonah Hill, Jason Schwartzman) also hoping to make it big.

Upon being diagnosed with a rare, incurable form of leukemia, George begins re-evaluating his life. Viewers can see that past all the money, success, laughter, and one-night stands, it's a pretty empty and lonely existence. George doesn't outright come to that conclusion, but he isn't entirely oblivious to it. After one brief, strange encounter, the rich funnyman hires the untested Ira to write jokes for him at high-paying corporate events and that arrangement quickly develops into the only meaningful relationship in George's life.

Comedian George Simmons (Adam Sandler) takes a liking to struggling up-and-comer Ira Wright (Seth Rogen) and invites him to become his personal assistant.

But that wasn't always the case and with George's death sentence granting him a new lease on life, he replays his most serious romance, one that ended twelve years earlier on the verge of marriage. Her name is Laura (Leslie Mann) and back then she was a struggling actress accepting commercials and bitchy roles on primetime soaps. Now, she is married with two young daughters (real-life brood Maude and Iris Apatow). Laura's Australian husband Clark (Eric Bana), who travels the globe for work, has given her just enough reason to be dissatisfied with him and not entirely unwilling to forgive George's past transgressions.

There is a plot turn, which was openly dispensed in the film's first trailer but can just as well remain unstated. Suffice it to say, the movie spends time on George and Ira's developing colleague/friend-ship, George and Laura's potential rekindling, and George's reaction to his medical worries. Some supporting threads, involving the Schwartzman character's lowbrow high school sitcom "Yo Teach!" and Ira's would-be love interest Daisy (Aubrey Plaza), also factor into the much-cited 2-hour runtime, as do a number of fairly amusing self-cameos (including James Taylor, Eminem, Ray Romano, and Paul Reiser). But their purpose is mostly to supply laughs and lighten what could be drearily heavy subject matter.

Funny People differs from the first two films that Apatow directed. It still finds room for both filthy off-color dialogue and insight into the human condition. It still feels like a film cobbled together from the best of many filmed improvs and references. But despite the title, it's less of a comedy and more of a dramedy. The gut-busting moments that have defined his movies and the many inspired by them are sparse. Men still act like rowdy, hormonal boys, but rather than lingering on this contemporary cinema staple, the film directs our attentions to more pressing and serious matters, like how best to spend and share our limited time on this planet.

Leslie Mann and Eric Bana play a married couple whose frequent separations a meddling George (Adam Sandler) could make permanent.

There are two ways to read what the film says about its director. One is that he's growing more mature and daring, willing to get audiences expecting another summer romp to think seriously about life, love, and death. The other interpretation is that Apatow has gone soft or sentimental,
that he's forgetting his achievements have been based on hilarity and now wandering into James L. Brooks territory with ill-timed hopes of picking up some awards cred. Truth lies in the eye of the beholder and audiences will no doubt be divided on the issue.

Personally, I put more stock in the first explanation, although part of me wishes the film made it easier to subscribe to it. Because as affecting and haunting as portions may be, there are approximately 150 penis jokes that largely fail to land. Those occurring off the stage where performers work "blue" register as especially juvenile and out-of-place.

Funny People definitely doesn't offer the type of entertaining experience that Knocked Up did. Either that was clear from the supposedly deceptive/indecisive yet abundant marketing, or word-of-mouth plays an unusually strong role on Apatow's comedies, because the film's box office performance fell quite short of expectations. With remarkably weak legs following a slightly soft opening, the movie became Universal's third underperformer among the studio's three big summer "comedy" releases. It hobbled to make $50 million in North America.

Perhaps expectations are to blame. One can easily label Apatow's first two directorial efforts, also R-rated Universal summer releases, as financial successes, each clearing the $100 million mark. And Sandler is one of the biggest movie stars in the world, having scored at least one $100 million hit every year since 2002 (this kills that streak) and doing most of his biggest business in the summer. But Apatow has flops and midrange success among his past productions. And while Sandler's signature PG-13 vehicles are just about guaranteed to earn nine figures domestically, anything falling outside that niche (the animated Eight Crazy Nights, his dramatic turns in Punch-Drunk Love, Reign Over Me, and Spanglish, the unusually fantastical Little Nicky) has sold far fewer tickets. When the names and reputations are set aside, we can see the film actually played decently for being a long R-rated flick too crude for art houses, too dramatic for mainstream summer moviegoers, and too costly ($75 million production budget) for what it was.

The financial reception given Funny People does suggest restrictions will come on what Apatow and Sandler can do in the future while keeping big-thinking studio executives happy. And that's unfortunate, because together here, the two minds tread new ground in an engaging fashion. It's a good thing both have proven shtick to fall back upon, provided the often fickle and electronically dour general public hasn't grown weary of it.

Funny People: 1-Disc DVD cover art DVD Details

1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Surround (Spanish, French)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled and Captioned
Release Date: November 24, 2009
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99
Black Keepcase
Also available in 2-Disc Unrated Collector's Edition and on Blu-ray Disc

VIDEO and AUDIO

Probably the result of fitting two versions on a single disc, Funny People looks a little artifacty on DVD. The picture is still satisfactory, with accomplished cinematographer Janusz Kaminski providing interesting compositions. The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack is unremarkable but fine.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

Both the single and two-disc versions of Funny People supply both the theatrical cut and an extended version no one was asking for.
The latter runs six minutes and change longer and while nothing stands out without a prior viewing, those who caught the movie in theaters might notice some little bits added here and there, most of them stand-up scenes.

An audio commentary is delivered by the film's three biggest names: Judd Apatow, Adam Sandler, and Seth Rogen. They share lots of personal experiences that shaped the script, recalling interactions with famous people and getting discovered. The trio also discusses several bonus features that aren't included on the single-disc DVD. Anchoring the filmmaking angle, Apatow comments on keeping his intended tone required going for laughs but also cutting funny moments. They also identify extended cut additions and the sources of the many old personal and professional videos featured.

The single-disc edition's extras conclude with an amusing gag reel (3:36) consisting of goof-ups, outtakes, and bursts of laughter.

The disc opens with just one trailer for American Pie Presents Book of Love, Universal marketing at its least appropriate.

The static, simple menus are scored. There are no keepcase inserts.

As Ira's also struggling roommates, Jonah Hill and Jason Schwartzman provide some of the film's lighter, less essential and more amusing material.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

As real life so often does, Funny People defies expectations. It isn't the non-stop laughfest summer moviegoers may have wanted to see, but in fits it earns its title adjective and in even more it qualifies as poignant drama. No character is entirely likable and I would have appreciated a lot less crassness, but chalk them up to realism and you're still able to appreciate the film that never takes the easy way out. Sandler fans can see the movie both sends up and mythologizes the kind of success he's had. It's a layer you certainly wouldn't find in previous Apatow/Sandler collaboration You Don't Mess with the Zohan. Of course, Funny People doesn't offer the fun and satisfying experience of Sandler's best signature films, but it's much more enjoyable than some of the clunkers he's recently turned out (wretched Zohan most of all).

Related Reviews:
Written/Directed by Judd Apatow: Knocked Up | Produced by Judd Apatow: Superbad Year One Drillbit Taylor The TV Set Step Brothers
I Love You, Man Tropic Thunder Paul Blart: Mall Cop | Starring Adam Sandler: Bedtime Stories | Starring Leslie Mann: 17 Again
Featuring Jason Schwartzman: The Darjeeling Limited Shopgirl | Featuring Jonah Hill: Strange Wilderness Reno 911!: Season 6

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Reviewed November 11, 2009 / Updated December 19, 2009 and February 6, 2010.



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