• Funny People




    Released by: Universal

    Released on: November 24, 2009.
    Director: Judd Apatow
    Cast: Adam Sandler, Seth Rogan, Leslie Mann, Jason Schwartzman, Eric Bana, Jonah Hill
    Year: 2009
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    The Movie:

    In what has to be the most personal film of his career, in Funny People one thing is very obvious – Judd Apatow is getting older. The script deals with this, but you also can’t help but notice that this is a more grown up film than some of his earlier efforts. Here, Apatow gets serious for a bit. Sure you saw it before with The Forty Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up, both of those had serious moments and a real heart underneath the bromosexual jokes and frat boy humor, but not to the same extent as Funny People.

    The film follows a guy named Ira Wright (Seth Rogan) who works his day job at a deli (where he works with the RZA, how cool would that be?) but really wants to make it as a comic. He tries his hand at stand-up periodically but just isn’t hitting his marks the way he needs to. The fact that his roommates are finding success of their own isn’t helping his ego. His one roommate, Mark Taylor Jackson (Jason Schwartzman) has just landed a lucrative role on a sit com called Yo Teach! And his other roommate, Leo Koenig (Jonah Hill) is fast on his way to becoming a YouTube sensation while Ira toils away day in and day out. The fact that Mark is making moves on the girl that Ira like doesn’t help his situation either, but Ira’s luck changes when one night he follows a famous comic named George Simmons (Adam Sandler) at a stand up appearance. George sees something in Ira and takes him on as his assistant and lets him write for him.


    What Ira doesn’t realize, initially at least, is that George has just been diagnosed with leukemia and isn’t expected to make it. Faced with his own mortality George is going through a pretty intense personality crisis where he decides to rekindle things with his ex-girlfriend, Laura (Leslie Mann), while her current husband (Eric Bana) is out of the country on business. As George tries to get things going with Laura again, his relationship with Ira has its own ups and downs which soon has a trickledown effect and changes the lives of all involved.


    Often as sad as it is amusing, Funny People is witty, clever, well written, and dare I say it, emotionally moving. There’s a lot of great comedy here, the kind of humor that’s made Apatow and his crew as popular as they are, but mixed in with it is a rather melancholy story about a screwed up man wrestling with his own mortality and trying to get what he wants out of life while he still can and how this affects his relationships. At the center of all of this is Adam Sandler, who much to the dismay of his many detractors, has proven himself completely capable of handling serious drama just as effectively as he can a good fart joke. As unlikely a candidate as he may seem to be, he’s excellent in this film. At times you want to hug him, other times you want to hit him, but he always comes across as very human and remarkably flawed. His interactions with Rogan’s Ira and the way that their relationship develops from a professional association into a semi co-dependency, both using the other but developing a legitimate admiration for each other at the same time. Supporting efforts from the rest of the cast are welcome and easy to appreciate, as most of them are comedic, but it’s Rogan and Sandler who really steal the show here.


    Underneath all of this is Apatow’s script, probably the strongest he’s written in terms of characterization and plot development. There are more than a few interesting twists here, but none of them feel out of placed of forced. None of this ever feels convenient, rather it’s quite the opposite, but it does all feel entirely appropriate.


    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Universal has done a very nice job with the 1.85.1 AVC encoded 1080p anamorphic widescreen transfer for this film. Detail and color reproduction (intentionally muted in some scenes to give the film a sometimes somber tone) are uniformly excellent across the board while black levels stay strong and deep throughout the movie. Skin tones look nice and natural, never too hot or pink even under the lights on the stage during the stand up scenes, though detail isn’t quite as strong in these scenes as in the rest of the film. There’s a natural looking coat of film grain noticeable throughout the picture but no issues at all with actual print damage. There are no problems with mpeg compression artifacts or edge enhancement to note, and all in all we’re left with a very crisp, colorful and detail image.

    The English language DTS-HD 5.1 mix sounds as good as it should. This is primarily a dialogue based film so don’t expect tons of crazy sound effects to come at you from all directions but there’s obviously been a lot of care put into this track, you’ll notice it during the quieter moments where some subtle ambient noise can be heard in the backgrounds. The stand up scenes have the most activity, thanks to some crowd response, and the score is spread around nicely as well making good use of all the channels in the mix. This isn’t really demo material but it certainly sounds very good. Optional standard definition DTS 5.1 mixes are provided in French and Spanish, with subtitles available in English, French and Spanish.


    The highlight of the many extras contained on this release is the commentary track in which writer/director Judd Apatow talks with stars Seth Rogan and Adam Sandler about making the picture. These three have a pretty natural chemistry here, you can see it in the movie and you can hear it in the commentary, and while Apatow and Sandler dominate the discussion, all three have got some interesting stories to share in addition to a lot of funny in joking and reminiscing. Apatow is probably the most interesting of the three as he’s able to lend some welcome insight into what made him want to write a movie like this and how it fits in with his other pictures, though Sandler’s insight into where his career is at now compared to his earlier years and how it mixes with his character’s position in life in the movie are also quite interesting. This is a great track – lots of humor, but just as much interesting information as well.


    Also quite interesting is the seventy five minute long Funny People Diaries, a feature length documentary in which most of the cast and crew members contribute video diary entries during the making of the production. Split into four parts, there’s a lot of ground covered here – writing, casting, rehearsing, shooting and post production – but it’s all quite interesting and it covers the material from a very personal perspective and gives some of the lesser known contributors a chance to share their experiences. Three other much shorter HD featurettes are also worth checking out – a funny faux-documentary about a stand up comic named Randy (Aziz Ansari’s character), a short bit about Judd Apatow’s college radio show, and an interesting look at James Taylor’s set visit – running a combined thirty plus minutes and offering some good laughs. Speaking of Taylor, there’s a twenty-seven minute HD featurette about his contribution to the movie found in the Music section alongside bit where Adam Sandler joins Jon Brion jamming together which works well alongside the extended version of the George Will Be Gone Soon bit from the movie. Not to be left out, The RZA also contributes a fun promotional podcast. Wu Tang!


    From there, check out the massive collection of deleted bits and archival material. There are two Line-O-Rama montages and two Gag Reel Collections running over twenty two minutes in total and featuring some truly funny flubs and on set goofing around. On top of that, there’s almost fifty minutes of deleted scenes here as well and then well over an hour’s worth of extended and alternate sequences. All of this material is presented in HD and it runs the gamut from funny to dramatic but if nothing else serves to flesh out the characters a fair bit more. Apatow was right in cutting most of this stuff, as it would have dragged down the pace of an already lengthy movie, but that doesn’t mean that some of it isn’t worth watching.


    Bringing the focus back to comedy, there’s over an hour’s worth of SD material included here in a documentary called Stand Up that features some interesting behind the scenes material as well some excellent stand up sets from Sandler, Rogan, and Azia Ansari. The Films Of George Simmons is a hilarious seven minute collection of clips from Simmons’ filmography which is focused on in parts of the feature, while the excellent From The Archive section contains almost a half an hour’s worth of interviews and television appearances culled from the careers of Adam Sandler, Judd Apatow, and Seth Rogan, whose first TV appearance at the age of thirteen is included here. Want more? Check out the Adam And Judd On Charlie Rose featurette which is an interesting interview running almost an hour in length covering the themes of the film and its production history.


    Some shorter bits are also pretty funny and worth checking out – eighteen minutes of prank phone clals that Adam Sandler and Judd Apatow made together in their younger years, a collection of bits from the Yo Teach! TV show that Schwartzman’s character works on in the film, an odd five minute piece called Kids On The Loose: The Sequel in which Apatow’s kids show him who is really in charge, an ADR session Line-O-Rama reel, and a bizarre two minute collection of some of the excised material from Sandler’s sex scenes in the film. Rounding out the extras are the film’s theatrical trailer, some Blu-ray live connectivity including a BD Live news ticker, animated menus, a bookmarking feature, and chapter stops.


    The Final Word:

    One of the best ‘dramadies’ to come along in ages, Funny People is clever, moving, and frequently hilarious. Universal has done an excellent job on the Blu-ray release, providing great audio and video quality and loading the set up with a ridiculous amount of supplemental material in addition to providing both the theatrical and extended cuts of the film. All in all, an excellent package.