Wednesday, August 05, 2009
REVIEW: Funny People
Director: Judd Apatow
Starring: Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann, Eric Bana, Jonah Hill
Distributor: Universal Pictures
MPAA: Rated R
After Knocked Up, director Judd Apatow had the desire to base his next film on his early experiences as a struggling comedian. Having the success of both The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up, Universal stepped in to distribute and market the film. Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, and Leslie Mann were cast as the three leads in March of 2008. Apatow had Sandler, Rogen, and Jonah Hill, who all play stand-ups in the film, write their own material for routines. Apatow filmed them performing their routines in front of live audiences, using six cameras to capture their performances and audience reactions.
George Simmons (Adam Sandler) is a very successful yet self-involved stand-up comedian who learns that he has an incurable blood disorder and is given less than a year to live. Ira Wright (Seth Rogen) is a struggling up-and-coming stand-up comedian who works at a deli and has yet to figure out his onstage persona. One thing these different men have in common is that neither of them have any close friends. One night, George takes notice of Ira when they perform at the same club and he hires him to be his semi-personal assistant and opening act at his performances. George and Ira form a close bond as George teaches Ira how to win the crowd and Ira helps the dying George find closure in his legacy.
With Funny People, director Judd Apatow went for a more serious and mature film compared to his previous work. The story is more emotional and nicely refreshing. Its not particularly an original idea, but its still very good. I just love the fact that Apatow always aims for those realistic and human-like story lines that blends funny jokes with an emotional plot. It just makes for a film that many people can relate to and know about it. Even if its different than what we normally expect from him, its still a welcome change that really tests his ability as a writer and a director. The film still contains what has become the Apatow trademark of raunchy jokes, which are still very funny. The film ain't as funny as Knocked Up or Superbad, but it doesn't seem like its trying to be. It definitely feels like a darker comedy than the ones he has produced over past. While I personally enjoyed this film very much, I found its run time to be somewhat of a big issue. A comedy film is usually best when its kept short. Its very hard for a comedy flick to sustain that exciting and entertaining value for more than 2 hours especially when the film is more drama than comedy. That's essentially the case with Funny People. The films run time is well over 2 and a half hour with many of the scenes in the second half just dragging on. It almost feels like the second half is a completely different movie. Theirs also several scenes that feel like they could have been trimmed or shortened.
Adam Sandler plays the lead character in the movie, George Simmons. I appreciate some of the serious roles he has taken in the past such as Punch-Drunk Love and Reign Over Me. Hes a good actor when hes with the right director and Funny People proves this once again. His performance in the film is easily the best performance I have ever seen from him. He exhibits a wide range of emotions that works very well for the type of character he plays. Seth Rogen plays as George Simmon's only true friend, Ira Wright. Rogen is always a blast to see on screen because hes always pretty funny. He makes for a good partner next to Sandler's character. I'm sure the audience will tend to favor him more simply because hes more relate-able and always seems to be answering the questions the audience might be wondering. Leslie Mann plays as George's true love that got away, Laura. Now, I usually tend to like Leslie especially when shes in Apatow's films, but I thought she was awkwardly casted for this film. Her performance seems very limited and doesn't seem to have enough material to truly show her skills. We also have the talented Eric Bana playing as Laura's husband, Clarke. Bana gives a pretty good performance as the husband and hes pretty enjoyable to see on screen.
The visual look of Funny People is pretty good, but I was really surprised with the films cinematography. It was done by none other than 2 time Oscar winner Janusz Kaminski (Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan). Its far from his best, but its surprisingly good especially for a drama/comedy film. The films transfer seems to be in good shape, but their is a hint of film grain present through out the films run time. Its much more noticeable in the beginning since its basically showing old stock footage of Adam Sandler doing prank calls. The grain is hardly distracting and I personally found it to give the film a more realistic feel. Colors were nicely done and not too obtrusive. It wasn't necessarily vibrant, but it definitely felt like it had a good amount of color in the image. Black levels are strong, but not too strong. The image never seems to suffer from digital noise or lose any detail during the darker scenes. Flesh tones seem to be on spot and you can clearly tell who's who. Detail is generally good, but just like Apatow's previous film, Knocked Up, I came across a few scenes that seemed slightly softer than the rest. Still, close up shots show a good amount of detail and this is a pretty good looking movie, especially when you consider that its a comedy with no high tech special effects.
The films soundtrack is pretty good, but definitely not up to par with Knocked Up. The films music is composed by Michael Andrews and Jason Schwartzman. Since Apatow went for a more serious route, the film hardly uses much music. What we get is pretty good and feels natural for a film like this. I do however miss the good soundtrack that Knocked Up possessed. Funny People also isn't going to win anyone over with its bass. For a drama/comedy flick like this, theirs hardly any heavy use of bass. It isn't dynamic and feels like its more center forward than spread out. What we have isn't bad, but I guess we shouldn't have expected much considering its usually the action films that deliver in this department.
Funny People is a big and bold step for director Judd Apatow. I think hes becoming more skillful in keeping us connected to his characters while throwing very relate-able stories with it. I enjoyed the story and really liked the characters. I thought the films run time was exceedingly long and their were definitely some scenes that could have been trimmed or simply left out. I thought the cast was pretty great for the most part with Sandler giving in my opinion, the best performance he has ever given. The films visual look was in the vein of similar Apatow produced comedies and it looked pretty good for a film like this. I thought the soundtrack was alright, but definitely weaker than the ones on his previous films. I cant say I loved this film like I did with Knocked Up, but its still a very good film. Its got an emotional story with relate-able characters that you will love and hate. I appreciate that Apatow decided to try something new and go in a different step than his previous work. I'm already excited about whatever he has cooking next.