Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Judd Apatow's Attempt at Dramatic Comedy

Judd Apatow's Funny People comes out on DVD today and, despite the film's title, is actually just as much of a drama as it is a comedy. The movie isn't just fun and games and that wonderful brand of raunchy comedy that we've come to expect (and love) from Apatow. Instead, it tries to be a lot more and actually enjoys modest success for its efforts.

It tells the story of superstar comedian George Simmons (Adam Sandler, Apatow's real life ex-roommate) who is somewhat of a self-important ass. Simmons is diagnosed with leukemia and given a very small chance to live. Facing this news, Simmons decides he wants to spend his remaining days doing stand-up, his first love. And he hires struggling comedian Ira Wright (Seth Rogen) to help him write jokes for his act and basically work as his personal assistant. As the two get closer, Ira convinces George to tell others about his illness.

George contacts his ex-wife Laura (played by Apatow's real life wife, Leslie Mann) who is now married with two daughters. She tells George that she misses him and is unhappy with her marriage. Eventually, George overcomes his illness. And events transpire that force Laura to really make a decision between George and her husband (played by Eric Bana). I won't ruin the rest of the movie for anyone, but, if you can't tell so far, the plot is much more developed and serious than your average Apatow film. Dealing with life threatening illnesses and lost loves, the film is as much a coming-of-age tale about both Ira and George as it is anything else. Although not as emotionally compelling as a really good drama, I still found myself actually caring what happened to our characters (really one of the key ways that I judge whether a drama is good or not).

For as much as I've talked about the drama in this movie, there is still some comedy in it. The stand-up bits (by the way, the stars of the movie actually traveled across the country doing live stand-up at various comedy spots for the footage in the movie) are moderately funny, but they actually would've been much funnier if the film had included more of the work of Aziz Ansari (you might know him from Scrubs or Parks & Recreation) whose work as "Raaaaaandy" has actually developed somewhat of a cult following. You can check out some of his stuff that was left out here. Jonah Hill (Superbad, Knocked Up) and Jason Schwartzman are both somewhat funny in supporting roles. And I'm also really starting to fall in love with Apatow's newest stars, his daughters Maude and Iris (also the daughters from Knocked Up). They're actually really funny. But, all in all, the comedy is somewhat lacking compared to Apatow's other films. And if you have no interest in anything but laughing, you will probably be disappointed. There is just too much time devoted to more serious matters.

Bottom Line: The movie is sort of a combination of an average comedy and an average drama. But for whatever reason, I actually thought it was pretty decent. Be warned that it is rather long, but I think it's definitely worth a watch. But maybe not a buy. (B-)

Here's the preview:

Other movies coming out on DVD:

Angels & Demons -- This was a very average thriller that had some pretty entertaining parts but seemed relatively uninspired. Unless you have to own it because of the book, I wouldn't bother. (C)

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