Funny People, up to a certain point, is Judd Apatow’s masterpiece. That point is easy to pick out. In it, George Simmons (Adam Sandler) attempts to rekindle a past relationship with Laura (Leslie Mann).
They sit outdoors of Simmons’ mansion, one built from the millions of Hollywood dollars earned through starring roles in dopey comedies. All of Simmons’ mistakes, his flirtations with women, have come to a head due the realization he has leukemia. Laura is the woman he let go years ago, and there they sit, together. They apologize, reminisce, and enjoy each others company. The sequence is truly beautiful, incredibly well shot, acted, and written.
Two or three scenes later, the magic is gone.
Something drastic happens to Funny People. Suddenly the film seems concerned with celebrity cameos, which in the beginning of the film were cute and funny. They begin to drag the film into a rut, and all you can think about is how those cameos have done nothing for this story.
James Taylor makes an appearance early in the film, one that goes on for sometime and exists only to deliver a single line. The build up needs trimmed, much like appearances from Sarah Silverman, and especially one with Eminem that goes nowhere. These scenes are funny, but better left buried on the disc than in the finished film.
All of this is a shame, as the film struggling to come through is brilliant. Sandler is stunning as Simmons. While Sandler playing a role as a movie star, one which starred in Re Do where his head is super-imposed on an infant’s body, doesn’t seem like a stretch, the character is deep and complex. He is hurting on the inside, lashing out when his TV doesn’t work in the film’s toughest emotional moment.
Simmons is joined by Ira Wright (Seth Rogen), a fellow stand up comedian, but an outcast. Their relationship is unique, because while Ira is initially the one lacking social skills and appearing awkward towards women, Simmons is no different. He uses woman to feed his own need to companionship, yet in the real world, has no friends and relies on the maid to break good news late in the film.
When Simmons begins to rekindle his relationship with Laura is where Funny People loses this component. Up until this point in the movie, drama and comedy mix perfectly to deliver this amazingly complex character who when happy, doesn’t seem to have the same draw. He becomes complacent and satisfied, even though the film has built a character who is anything but.
The relationship is not misguided. In fact, this is undeniably well put together and thought out plot device, even if two of the characters (Laura and her husband Clarke) are introduced late into the film. The latter are as developed as anyone in the film.
Simmons becomes an issue because when he is happy, he stops being funny. He uses comedy to deal with emotional issues, even hide from his potential death. Once he visits Laura, the scenery changes, and Simmons does not need his comedy to remain satisfied. The audience does.
Universal, what happened here? After the opening credits pulled from VHS (on purpose), the first shot of the film has Sandler waking up in a noisy, compressed, and artifact-riddled mess. When daylight strikes, it turns out that some rather significant edge enhancement and ringing are a problem as well. Edges consistently show halos or dark lines, and nearly any scene could be an example.
Furthermore, the grain structure is butchered, undoubtedly due to some excessive DNR. Look at the cupboards in the background as Sandler and Rogen chat in the kitchen for the first time. The grain barely moves, completely unnatural and static. Faces are wiped of detail, and occasional smearing is evident. Definition is poor. Long shots of houses, or any shot with complexity (crowds, trees) completely break down.
There are moments where this AVC encode is tolerable. The scene where Sandler and Mann are getting back together on the porch is at least on that level. It is okay, even if the detail is still lackluster. Colors are fine, and flesh tones only appear waxy or pink on occasion. Flickering stripes on shirts is noted if not as offensive as the other problems. Black levels are fine, establishing average depth. Some source damage is minimal.
Universal’s DTS-HD mix sits in the front channels as expected given the dialogue driven nature of the film. Some spacing in the stereo channels is fun, including some positional chatter and cars moving through. The rear speakers mostly contain light laughter in the stand-up scenes, and a plane taking off at one point in an airport.
The mix is certainly adequate, with nicely mixed dialogue remaining audible, and a powerful musical sequence from James Taylor that is wonderfully crisp.
As always, the Apatow comedies come loaded with special features. If a packrat exists in Hollywood in terms of saving every ounce of possible footage from a production, it’s Apatow. Given the amount of content here, a commentary is actually getting to the point of overkill, but Apatow, Sandler, and Rogen sit down to chat on either the unrated or the theatrical cut. The former adds about six minutes to the film, mostly in stand-up scenes.
For non-commentary fans, The Funny People Diaries is 75 minutes of behind-the-scenes goodness, loaded with additional stand-up as well. Likewise, the dual line-o-ramas (improv) and outtakes contain additional scenes from the stand-up performances. BD-Live access is generic, and U-Control lets you view pop-up information on the music being played in the film.
That was just the first disc. Nearly two hours of deleted/extended scenes make you appreciate editors, and three brief featurettes (including one on Aziz Ansari done in a mock fashion) load that section. Additional songs and featurettes are listed under “music,” including a six-song set from James Taylor.
Funny People Live kicks off the stand-up section, running just over 40 minutes, while three smaller bits (all less than 10 minutes) follow. These feature cast and crew on the stage performing their routines, and chatting about the stand-up process itself.
A stack of archival routines track the career of Sandler, Rogan, and Apatow, including great pieces such as Sandler’s first Letterman appearance back in 1991. Additional prank phone calls are included as well.
Clips from the fake Sandler films used in Funny People are enjoyably goofy. Likewise, a few moments from the TV show, Yo, Teach! are included in their entirety. A Charlie Rose Show interview is followed by another line-o-rama (pulled from ADR), a small featurette on Apatow’s kids who had roles in the film, another small outtakes section on the awkwardness of the sex scenes, followed (finally) by a trailer.