Sweet, funny and a bit deeper than some of his other recent works, "Funny People" is a pleasant surprise from Judd Apatow ("40-Year-Old Virgin".) The picture stars Adam Sandler as George, a wildly successful comedian who lives largely by himself in a giant house in Los Angeles.
Early on, George finds out that he has a form of leukemia and possibly doesn't have much longer to live. Drifting outside into the cold, glassy building of his doctor's office, fans ask for a picture, unaware of the sadness unfolding in the star's life. Retreating to his home, he takes stock of his life and realizes that, despite all the possessions, he largely lives a life without friends or love.
He gradually starts to make changes, starting with contacting Laura (Leslie Mann), who he allowed to get away before and who now lives in an unhappy relationship with Clarke (Eric Bana). George also takes Ira Wright (Seth Rogen) under his wing, pulling in the aspiring comedian as his assistant.
The movie tries to focus on a series of different characters, as while George's story is the focus, the movie also branches off and follows Ira, as well as his roommates - Mark (Jason Schwartzman) and Leo (Jonah Hill) and the girl Ira has eyes for, Daisy (Aubrey Plaza).
Eventually, George tries to turn things around after getting some news and makes another push for Laura while trying to get new material - with the help of Ira - together. There's a really great story at the core of "Funny People", as it gets into the mindset of comedians and how one comedian at his prime sees the potential in another up-and-coming comedian.
However, there's a problem: as much as I've enjoyed Apatow's films, this is another instance where less could have been more. The picture clocks in at about 150 minutes (it's not an epic) and pacing could have been improved had the picture been brought down to a flat 2 hours.
That said, the movie owes a lot to a pair of excellent performances - Rogen offers what may be his best performance yet as Wright, whose enthusiasm feels genuine. It's a charming performance, and Rogen and Sandler play off one another superbly. Sandler also gives one of the most heartfelt performances the actor has delivered since "Punch-Drunk Love". Aziz Ansari, Jonah Hill and newcomer Aubrey Plaza also offer excellent supporting efforts. There's also a few pleasant surprises in the cameo department. The film is also an improvement over Apatow's prior films visually, with lovely cinematography by frequent Spielberg collaborator Janusz Kaminski.
"Funny People" is a surprise - the picture was marketed as a comedy, but it's actually a mostly very enjoyable balance between drama and comedy (and there's some terrifically funny moments scattered throughout), with superb performances. Bringing the film down towards 2 hours would have helped matters quite a bit, but even an excessive length doesn't take away too much from an otherwise fine film.
The title includes both the 146-minute theatrical cut and the unrated edition, which adds 7 more minutes.
VIDEO: "Funny People" is presented by Universal in 1.85:1 (1080p/AVC). Presentation quality is a little bit underwhelming, although aspects of the transfer are fine. Sharpness and detail are a little inconsistent, although most scenes look bright and well-defined.
The main problem is edge enhancement, which is clearly visible and a bit distracting in several scenes. There's also - surprisingly - a few little specks and marks on the print used. Colors remain bright and well-saturated, with no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: The DTS-HD 5.1 presentation remains reasonably good, with clear, well-recorded dialogue and a clean, full-sounding score. Surrounds are used minimally, which isn't unexpected, given the material.
EXTRAS: Commentary with Apatow, Rogen and Sandler. The commentary is an excellent track, as the three have a great deal of fun chattering about the movie and goofing on each other. There's plenty of jokes thrown out and behind-the-scenes stories shared, but the three also do share a good deal about the making of the film, discussing story, characters, development and production issues.
"Funny People Diaries: a Documentary in 4 Parts" is a 65-minute look at the making of the film, via a series of video diaries from the set. The documentary may be a series of diaries edited together, but it works superbly - the documentary as a whole offers some marvelous looks at the behind-the-scenes process of creating the movie and pulling together comedy, as well as trying to craft drama and develop characters. There's a lot of rehearsal footage and some great moments with the cast discussing how to approach certain scenes. This is an excellent, excellent piece and one of the best "making of"'s I've seen in a while.
Also included is a feature regarding the music, as well as line-o-rama alternate line clips (2 parts) and a gag reel (again, 2 parts.) Both features offer some terrific laughs, especially the gag reel(s). Not sure why both weren't simply combined into one line-o-rama featurette and one gag reel, but oh well.
The second disc offers a massive amount of deleted footage - with a set of deleted scenes and extended/alternate scenes combined boasting about 2 hours of footage. With a movie worth of alternate footage to look through, this is certainly an impressive bonus, and there are some gems to be found here that must have ended up on the editing room floor due to length.
We also get looks at the fake films in the movie ("The Films of George Simmons") and the spoof TV show ("Yo, Teach!") "From the Archives" offers a set of early clips of Rogen, Apatow and Sandler and are fun viewing. We also get clips of prank phone calls from 1990 made by Sandler and both live performance footage from James Taylor and performance footage from Adam Sandler and Jon Brion.
That's certainly not all - there's plenty more bonus features to look through, including a 20-minute feature called “Raaaaaaaandy!” that takes a mockumentary look at the character played by Ansari in the film. "Kids on the Loose" is a brief spotlight for Apatow's kids, who are seen in the movie. "ADR-O-Rama" offers some alternate line readings, while "Charlie Rose" offers the nearly hour-long episode that featured Sandler and Apatow, who talk about their history working together. It's a terrific episode, with some very funny moments.
But wait, there's more! "Funny People Live" is a Comedy Central special promoting the film, and we also get Randy Stand Up (7:02) and Ira Stand Up (5:47) - live stand-up footage that was taken from a show that was put on. Finally, there's "George in Love" (outtakes), a short featurette on rapper RZA's involvement and the trailer. This is certainly one of the most feature-packed titles in ages, and the Blu-Ray offers more extras than the DVD set.
Final Thoughts: "Funny People" is a surprise - the picture was marketed as a comedy, but it's actually a mostly very enjoyable balance between drama and comedy (and there's some terrifically funny moments scattered throughout), with superb performances. Trimming the film down would have helped, but even an excessive running time doesn't take away too much from an otherwise fine film. The Blu-Ray offers mixed video quality, but very nice audio quality and absolute boatload of extras. Recommended.
The Film B-