Blu-Ray Review: ‘Funny People’ Disappointing Movie, Amazing Blu-Ray

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CHICAGO – Whatever problems I may have with Judd Apatow’s “Funny People” (and I’ll get to those, trust me), the Blu-Ray release for the comedy is easily one of the most extensive and impressive of the year with hours of bonus material and some amazing archival footage that makes the package a must-own for fans of the film. If only the movie itself lived up to such an impressive HD treatment. Blu-Ray Rating: 4.0/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 4.0/5.0

Adam Sandler stars as the mega-successful George Simmons, a former stand-up and comedy star who is told that he doesn’t have long to live. He partners up with a struggling comedian named Ira (Seth Rogen) and heads back out to clubs to find what he loved about comedy in the first place. He eventually crosses paths with the one who got away (Leslie Mann) and learns a lesson or two about life. Or three or four considering the 153-minute running time of the unrated version of the film.

Funny People was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on November 24th, 2009.
Funny People was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on November 24th, 2009.
Photo credit: Universal Home Video

Having reviewed the film when it was released in theaters past July, I’ll quote myself when it comes to the film itself…

““Funny People” is an undeniably ambitious piece of work about infidelity, regret, death, fame, friendship, and love, but it simply got away from one of the most talented comedy writer/directors of the last decade. The romantic end of “Virgin” and the lessons about responsibility in “Knocked Up” had an emotional resonance that’s missing from the over-long, often-rambling “Funny People,” a film with great parts that never quite develops into a cohesive sum.”

Funny People was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on November 24th, 2009.
Funny People was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on November 24th, 2009.
Photo credit: Universal Home Video

“There is a solid, entertaining movie about an awkward, overly nice young comedian working with an older, bitter one and learning lessons about the price of fame and the art of comedy. That movie is in “Funny People” but it has been cluttered by a too-long running time and enough themes for a season of television. Instead of sticking with his “A-story,” Apatow stretches his film to the breaking point with subplots about the conflict between friendship and career and a third act love quadrangle between George, Laura, and Laura’s husband (Eric Bana), with Ira stuck in the middle.

It’s all too much for one film and the script gets away from Apatow. By trying to tell so much story, he loses the emotional impact of what he should have focused on. It’s nice to see a film that avoids manipulative melodrama, but “Funny People” is surprisingly dead when it comes to honest emotion. There are scenes of crying characters that should at least pull at a heartstring, but they register shockingly flat.

Part of the reason for this is the mishandling of the dramatic material, but there are serious issues of chemistry and character that enhance the flaws. I never bought the undying love between Sandler & Mann, nor the relationship between Sandler & Rogen. There’s a dramatic urgency missing from the proceedings. You won’t care if George gets back together with Laura, if Ira finds success or fame, what happens with his friends, or even if George lives or dies. All of it takes place at arms-length, like you’re watching someone on stage, not relatable, three-dimensional characters.

Having said all of that, there are things to like about “Funny People,” even if most of it is on paper. I don’t want to suggest that Apatow isn’t talented enough to handle drama. He is. And we should encourage writer/directors to spread their wings outside of their traditional niche. If your friend’s new stand-up routine didn’t work, you’d still encourage him to try again.”

Even though the film is still a disappointment (even in the 7-minute longer unrated version), the Blu-Ray is a remarkable example of how to treat a film like this one. Fans of the movie or its stars couldn’t possibly ask for more.

In “Funny People,” Simmons watches old home movies of his stand-up and prank phone calls and Apatow uses actual archival Sandler material, all of which has been included uncut. Early footage of Judd and amazingly early footage of a pre-teen Rogen doing stand-up is also included. The archival material is fascinating but it’s literally just the beginning.

If you though “Funny People” was long already, wait until you see the 45-minutes-plus of material left on the cutting room floor in the deleted scenes or check out the extended and alternate versions. It’s also an interesting insight into the development of what was such an improvised work to watch the practically-trademarked “Line-O-Rama” featurettes, which feature different punchlines to several jokes in the film. Documentaries, gag reels, extended versions of material seen in the film like George Simmons’ films or the TV show “Yo Teach…!,” “James Taylor Live,” a feature commentary by Apatow, Sandler, & Rogen - it is literally impossible to think of anything missing from this stellar release, one of the most extensive and complete of the year. If the only the film itself was as remarkable.

‘Funny People’ is released by Universal Home Video and stars Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann, Jonah Hill, Eric Bana, and Jason Schwartzman. It was written and directed by Judd Apatow. It was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on November 24th, 2009. content director Brian Tallerico

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