Posts Tagged ‘Adam Sandler’

Things get complicated for “Funny People”, too

August 3, 2009

Funny570

Rated R : 2 hours 26 minutes : Universal/Columbia Pictures

There’s really nothing left for Judd Apatow to prove to us as far as the world of comedy is concerned. He owns it. Most all of us know by now that he has produced some of the elite films of the genre over the last five years, including Anchorman, Talladega Nights, Superbad, Walk Hard, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and Pineapple Express. As a producer he has brought together a group of actors and crew who are now labeled “The Apatow Family”. They are the assembled, rotating team of familiar faces that we have come to count on in our times of need for consistent laughter. It took him a while to break into the mainstream, but Apatow has cemented himself to become the busiest comedy producer in the world, delivering several projects a year. What I find most intriguing about the mastermind, though, is the writer/director side of him. In 2005 he had to prove to Universal that he could direct just as well as he writes and produces, so he started out by teaming with the popular Steve Carrell for the laugh fest, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, which became such an immediate hit that he quickly found the freedom to take on whatever kind of film he wanted to next. It would be with his second feature at the helm, Knocked Up, that we would come to find the major difference between Apatow-produced films and Apatow-produced/written/directed films: the attention to serious undertones and endearing, realistic situations life puts us in….all the while mixing in a boatload of his trademark comedy, of course. He had showed major improvement with his direction in just his second full-length, and ever since the June 2007 released of Knocked Up, I considered that the finest achievement of his career. That was until he decided to continue the trend of one-upping himself with the next directing effort, this time with the seriously affecting Funny People.

It’s been an extremely long wait for Apatow to finally work with old college roommate Adam Sandler on such a major project like this. They did a bit of collaborating in the past, like in the excellent but sadly cut-short television series, Undeclared, where Sandler played himself in one of the shows most memorable episodes. Apatow also co-wrote the script for the uneven You Don’t Mess With The Zohan, but the old friends hadn’t done anything with this much weight to it yet. I’m glad they saved Funny People for the first time they were to do something substantial together, because it gives Sandler his most challenging role since Paul Thomas Anderson wrote and directed him in 2002’s Punch-Drunk Love. Like the actor did in Anderson’s film, Sandler brings out a side of him we rarely get to see, playing George Simmons, one of the world’s most popular comedic actors who in his middle-aged days finds out that he has been diagnosed with a form of leukemia and has limited time left on earth. George lives in a California mansion that is occupied only by himself and the hired help, for he has driven all of the family and friends out of his life over the years. When he learns of his illness, Simmons notifies no one, he just heads back to the stand-up clubs that he started out in when he was young, surprising the audience-hungry promoters with his presence and the request to perform. It is at The Improv that he will first come into contact with Ira Wright, a dime-a-dozen aspiring comic who writes with promise but has a bumbling stage presence. Wright saves his set from failing by taking a stab as Simmons’ complete failure to generate laughs just a few minutes before, and with the audience opening up he goes on to have what must be the comfortable set he’s ever done. Simmons take a liking to Wright’s sense of humor and hires him to write jokes for him as he plots a stand-up tour, which he assumes will be his last. He is a complicated individual, one who we come to find has buried emotions deep inside for many years, and the relationship that unfolds between he and Ira, no matter how much he would consider it to be of the “hired help” kind, will prove to be just the kind of real friendship that he has always needed and, really, desired.

Of course there is far more to be told in this truly epic comedy, where Apatow once again puts on display the necessity of a strong supporting cast of characters who all get their dose of depth in the sharply written screenplay. The ensemble of actors is as stacked as any Apatow production to date, including Leslie Mann, Jonah Hill, Jason Schwartzman, Eric Bana, Aubrey Plaza,and a long list of other familiar faces showing up for minor roles. The most impressive thing (among countless impressive things) about Funny People, is the daring, unconventional approach that Apatow took with the structure of the screenplay. He knew that he could take any sort of risks he wanted to this time around, because having Adam Sandler on board is going to guarantee that the box-office numbers will be high at the very least. Knowing this, he takes his characters on an emotional journey that is unpredictable and always veering off the standard “three act” path of a normal screen story. By doing this, Apatow challenges his three main actors, and especially Sandler, to tag along with him as he attempts to mature in his storytelling. He also gets the two most human performances of both Rogen and Mann’s careers to date. Funny People was the most anticipated film in over a year for me personally. It had a lot to live up to, what with me talking about wanting to see it and all of its potential greatness for nearly an entire year after hearing of the talented involved and the premise. What Apatow has accomplished with this film is incredible and really too brilliant to put into words. I saw it twice on its opening day last Friday, and it only got better with the second viewing. Like all of the great comedies he is involved in, I suspect this will continue to endear with each passing watch, but because it was made with such a sense of personal involvement and an obvious long history of understanding the people working alongside him, it will become not only a favorite, but an essential piece of work out of everything I will see. This is where Apatow goes from making one of the funniest films of the year, to one of the best. It’s a masterpiece.

star_ratings_image

Cast
Adam Sandler
Seth Rogen
Leslie Mann
Eric Bana
Jonah Hill
Jason Schwartzman
Aubrey Plaza
Maude Apatow
Iris Apatow

Written & Directed by
Judd Apatow

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The Long-Awaited Collaboration Blog

June 19, 2008

For the past few months, my friend Elissa and I have talked about starting a blog that we could both participate in, a place where we could pool our thoughts together on whatever random things we wanted to talk about at any given time. What initially sparked such an idea is the fact that we are always talking about favorites lists we would make of albums, films, etc, always comparing our interests. The thought of a collaboration blog was always a good one, we just didn’t act on it as quick as we’d have liked to, but those days are over. A few days ago, Elissa officially created IS THE ONLY LOVE, the place that we’ll look to frequently deliver our random lists, poetry, rants, music talk, complaints, trend-bashings, comic book talk, and more nonsense that we could feel like spitting out. I hope you will take a look sometime. We promise we will try to make it interesting enough to wanna come back.

Some lists, inspired by recent reviews.

June 18, 2008

My 10 Favorite Mark Wahlberg Performances

1.I Heart Huckabees
2.Boogie Nights
3.The Happening
4.Three Kings
5.The Yards
6.The Perfect Storm
7.The Departed
8.The Basketball Diaries
9.Invincible
10.We Own the Night

My 5 Favorite Zooey Deschanel Performances

1.All the Real Girls
2.Almost Famous
3.Winter Passing
4.The Happening
5.The Good Girl

My 5 Favorite John Leguizamo Performances

1.Summer of Sam
2.Cronicas
3.Spun
4.Land of the Dead
5.The Groomsmen

My 3 Favorite M. Might Shyamalan Films

1.Signs
2.The Happening
3.The Sixth Sense

My 2 Favorite Adam Sandler Performances

1.Punch-Drunk Love
2.Reign Over Me


My 10 Favorite John Turturro Performances

1.Barton Fink
2.Box of Moonlight
3.13 Conversations About One Thing
4.The Truce
5.O Brother, Where Art Thou?
6.The Big Lebowski
7.Quiz Show
8.Rounders
9.Miller’s Crossing
10.Cradle Will Rock

You Don’t Need To Mess With Seeing “The Zohan”

June 15, 2008

PG-13, 113 minutes, Columbia Pictures

For whatever reason, there still seems to be something intriguing enough about Adam Sandler, something that convinces me to pay for a ticket to see his (mostly) mindless comedies. Maybe I’m still sort of paying respect to the guy, or more accurately, being patient with him because he has shown the ability to branch out and display true acting chops from time to time, most notably in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love. Still, there is no excuse for me continuing to put myself through idiotic messes, like The Waterboy, Little Nicky, Anger Management, etc. Every summer, he releases a comedy that always looks stupid and most of the time follows through with that promise. I thought 2006 would be the last year I would put myself through the hell of trying his dumb projects, at that time I had just come out of the terrible experience of Click, which was mind-bogglingly awful. I did well by not even considering last year’s I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, a film that I know could be nothing but bad and will never see. Little did I know, it only took one more year to pull me back into the trap of Sandler-itis, for yesterday I indeed went to see You Don’t Mess With The Zohan. I had two fair excuses for choosing to see this film, though – the main one being that Judd Apatow co-wrote it. The movie also got my pick because the competition at the multiplex was extremely slim this weekend.

Apatow worked on the script with Robert Smigel and Sandler himself, filling it with over-the-top bits that I bet had a lot of promise on paper, there’s no doubt, and although it doesn’t fall apart into a complete disaster once it was made into pictures, it’s certainly not a recommendable comedy by any means. That’s a sad thing really, because there are all the components for a guilty pleasure fun time to be had with Zohan, who is a virtually indestructible Israeli agent that is fed up with living the life of endless violence, so decides to fake his death and make his way to the New York City for a new life and a new profession – in hairstyling. The trio of writers do their very best at peppering the film with absolutely insane moments, and some of them work well, but the movie is reaching too far and is way, way too long and easily overstays its welcome. I became very restless toward the end of the film, when over-the-top is taken too far with a hackey sack tournament that features attendees like John McEnroe, Kevin James, and Mariah Carey. To say that this is one of the funniest films Sandler has released in a while, which it is, is still not saying enough to consider it a good film, just better than bad. The performance by Sandler is one of the things in the film to praise, for he is always amping up the energy with Zohan, sticking with the ridiculous tones set in place from the very beginning. I’m not sure if it is even right to applaud an actor for immersing himself in a film and role like this, but Sandler does lose himself entirely in Zohan and he’s the anchor for making the movie even remotely watchable.

Besides have a supporting cast of usuals from Sandler comedies, like John Turturro, the horrific Rob Schneider, Robert Smigel, and others, the film sports a cameo list that reaches a high number. There is a particularly good appearance in the movie by Chris Rock as a Jamaican taxi driver, making his short screen time memorable. Though completely different films, both this and the other movie I saw this weekend, The Happening, have similar focus when it comes to the American paranoia since 9/11. Zohan displays the end of the middle-eastern people’s struggles to get around a terrorist image, and in New York City no-less. It is played in a near slapstick manner of course, at times effectively (not to use this term so much) over-the-top. To watch this film frequently present promise of unique hilarity at times and then fail to do so, was a tragic disappointment, but I guess for it even to approach that level is something to marvel at. I certainly do hope that Apatow and Sandler decide to work together again, maybe on something Apatow himself decides to take on for directing. If they could find the right notes then this could be a good tandem for numerous projects to come…but that remains a big “if”.

6/10