Considering its title, 'Funny People' isn't all that funny. Don't get me wrong, there are many comedic situations and some really funny lines spoken throughout, but in his third outing in the director's chair, Judd Apatow ('The 40-Year-Old Virgin', 'Knocked Up') gives audiences something other than foul-mouthed, raunchy humor. Here, he tells a more serious, sincere, and reflective story about people with problems, their difficulties in friendships, and how they deal with their issues by telling jokes. What Apatow has done is create a film similar to that of a stand-up routine, one single performance delving into life's ironies and the juvenile things we sometimes do.
The film starts out strong and emotional with a famous celebrity realizing the worth of his career and life. Adam Sandler is the wealthy, successful comedian and actor George Simmons. He has just discovered that he's developed a rare form of leukemia and will undergo a medical treatment with an 8 percent success rate. Back at his mansion, he finds solace watching home videos of his younger self doing stand-up and having fun with friends. It's one of the film's more moving and pitiful sequences, as George comes to another sudden realization: he's alone and has nobody to talk to. He goes to a local comedy club presumably as an act of returning to his roots, but only succeeds in embarrassing himself.
This is where Ira Wright (Seth Rogen) comes in. He's a struggling stand-up comedian sleeping on the sofa bed of friends Leo (Jonah Hill) and Mark (Jason Schwartzman). After a minor confrontation at the club, George offers Ira a job as his joke writer and personal assistant. Seeing as how his roommates are gaining moderate success, Ira jumps at the opportunity and finds out the position is more than he bargained for. George is a very temperamental individual, almost verbally abusive, but Ira sticks it out nonetheless. And it turns out, it's all for the better.
Their friendship and their time spent together highlights different aspects of the characters' personalities, which is also the plot's best feature. Rogen and Sandler reveal another side to their acting talents, one which many audiences are unfamiliar with. In 'Punch-Drunk Love' and 'Reign Over Me,' Sandler showed he's capable of much more than silly faces, stupid noises, or random acts of idiocy. With 'Funny People,' he gives us a real person confronted by death and the regret of past choices haunting the present. As we watch George deal with his health concerns, we sympathize with him and understand his foolish attempt to chase after his ex-girlfriend, Laura (Leslie Man).
Meanwhile, Rogen continues as the big, lovable dope we know and enjoy from previous films. Only now, he's also an unsure and dubious sap who legitimately wants to prevent George from repeating his mistakes. Rogen surprises as a thinner version of those pathetic losers from before and brings himself to a more prominent and dramatic position. We can tell the guy really wants friends that believe in him or at least appreciate him. To help him in this role, Hill and Schwartzman also provide equally strong performances of characterizations.
With 'Funny People', Judd Apatow still carries on with his signature sense of humor, full of foul language and dirty, gross jokes. But the real comedy doesn't come from the scripted lines or the improv. Rather, it's all situational - things just seem more real. Take the scene with Eminem and Ray Romano -- it's hysterically funny and feels genuine. The only problem is with a script that suddenly changes gears in the latter half of the second act. It's somewhat jarring and clunky at first, but the narrative quickly recovers its footing, and the film is back on track.
Credit Apatow's directing and writing for salvaging a piece that could have easily fallen to the wayside as another buddy-comedy, especially when we see the names Sandler and Rogen side by side. 'Funny People' is definitely a big change from his previous two movies. I might even go out on a limb and state this is Apatow's most mature film yet. Like the cast, he, too, shows he's capable of more than just base, simple humor. And from the looks of it, it's a good thing.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Universal Studios Home Entertainment delivers Judd Apatow's 'Funny People' in a 2-Disc Collector's Edition. Both are BD-50 Blu-ray discs, with the first containing two versions of the film - "Rated" or "Unrated". The difference between them is about seven minutes and can be accessed under the 'Extras' banner of the main menu. The second disc contains more bonus features. The discs are packaged in the standard blue keepcase with a shiny slipcover, which features a photo of the three main characters. As soon as the disc is inserted into the player, viewers are greeted by the normal Universal logo and menu options.
'Funny People' makes it way onto the high-def stage with good picture quality I'm sure will please fans. Only the 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer (1.85:1) is not razor-sharp or all that impressive. It's nicely detailed, however, showing some pleasant texture in various articles of clothing and accurate facial complexions. Contrast is well balanced with great visibility of background info and clean, sharp whites. Primaries are strong though not very vivid, and the rest of the palette is true, giving the film a warm and attractive cinematic quality. Black levels are also rich, but gradations and delineation are only about average. Moreover, there are a few noticeable instances of the image appearing a little overexposed and highlighting film grain. To some, they are arguably minor but worth noting on an otherwise good picture quality.
The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on this Apatow/Sandler/Rogen combo pack is also pretty nice. It's far from remarkable or highly active, which should be expected of a dramatic comedy, but it serves its purpose well and in satisfying fashion. The dialogue-driven film delivers perfectly clear and discernible vocals in the soundstage. The other three channels carry the rest of the load with smooth dynamics, strong interior acoustics, and enjoyable, clean imaging. The score and musical choices spread evenly in the fronts with decent low bass to add dome depth. The surround speakers are practically of no concern as the sound design displays little in terms of atmospherics. The track may not impress friends or neighbors, but it makes for a nice lossless stereo presentation.
For this Blu-ray edition of 'Funny People', Universal Studios has bloated the package with a large and extensive collection of bonus material, spanning two full high-def discs. Almost all of them are presented in high definition, with some being exclusive to the format, and the supplements are enjoyable, giving everyone involved an opportunity to discuss the work that went into making the film.
Judd Apatow's third film is humorous and entertaining, and it also marks his most mature piece of work to date. With 'Funny People', he has created a real film about life's ironies and the juvenile things we sometimes do - a comical meditation on people with problems, their difficulties in friendships, and how they deal with their issues by telling jokes. The film debuts with a fairly strong A/V presentation and an incredibly exhaustive package of supplements. All things considered, there is no better way to watch 'Funny People' than on Blu-ray.