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Funny People (Blu-ray Review)

20 Nov, 2009 By: John Latchem

Street 11/24/09
Box Office $51.9 million
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 two-DVD set, $39.98 Blu-ray.
Rated ‘R’ for language and crude sexual humor throughout, and some sexuality. Unrated version also available.
Stars Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann, Jason Schwartzman, Jonah Hill, Eric Bana.

Whereas Judd Apatow usually presents a raunchy comedy with a trace of emotional subtext, for his third film the writer-director has flipped his template. Funny People manifests as a character drama with comedic overtones. And yet, the jokes and characters are unmistakably Apatow.

His subject is the world of stand-up comedy, and what it means to corrupt something you love for the love of money. His star, Adam Sandler, was his former roommate. The love interest is played by Apatow’s real-life wife, Leslie Mann, and her children in the film are played by the couple’s actual children.

Sandler plays George Simmons, a thinly veiled fictionalized version of himself, a big star who has been diagnosed with a deadly disease and embarks on a farewell stand-up comedy tour. This introduces one of the key themes of the film: Who can a clown turn to when he needs a laugh?

Simmons takes under his wing an up-and-coming comedian (Seth Rogen), who is sleeping on the couch of a friend (Jason Schwartzman) who just landed a hit sitcom.

If I didn’t know better, after watching the behind-the-scenes material I would think Apatow is trying to justify his entire life as research for this movie. At two-and-a-half hours, he is being more than a bit indulgent.

The disc extras really hammer home how much more there is to making a film such as Funny People than just shooting the movie.

First, to make George Simmons credible as a celebrity, he needs a backstory, and that means footage from his career, be it archive footage of Adam Sandler doing stand-up, or new footage of fake films starring Simmons.

Then, to re-create the vibrant world of stand-up comedy, Apatow had to shoot hundreds of hours of stand-up comedy routines. For that, he staged whole shows, only to use just a few minutes of footage in the film itself.

Even the supporting characters needed to be fleshed out with footage of their own. For Schwartzman’s character, that meant creating the fake, purposely mediocre sitcom “Yo, Teach!” from scratch.

A lot of this extra footage is included on the special-edition DVD, and much more is on the Blu-ray, from scenes of Simmons’ movies, to footage of Sandler making prank phone calls, and even a mini-concert of James Taylor performances. The Blu-ray contains practically a whole episode’s worth of scenes from “Yo, Teach!,” as well as a fabricated making-of documentary about the fictional series.

This is one of the most extensive Blu-ray Discs ever created, and in the hands of an Apatow fan there’s more than enough here for a self-contained afternoon of comedy.

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