by Kevin Carr
|| MOVIE: ** (out of 5 stars)
BLURAY EXPERIENCE: ***** (out of 5 stars)
Adam Sandler as GEORGE SIMMONS
Seth Rogen as IRA WRIGHT
Leslie Mann as LAURA
Eric Bana as CLARKE
Jonah Hill as LEO KOENIG
Jason Schwartzman as MARK TAYLOR JACKSON
Rated R and Unrated
Directed by: Judd Apatow
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Adam Sandler plays George Simmons, an acerbic, womanizing version of himself who has had wild Hollywood success but is utterly alone. He has alienated his family and the only woman he has ever loved. When he learns he has a rare form of leukemia, he takes a young comedian named Ira Wright (Seth Rogen) under his wing as his assistant, and reluctantly becomes his friend.
WHAT I LIKED
When I saw this movie in the theaters, I enjoyed it to a certain extent. I have liked the other two films that Judd Apatow has directed (“The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up”), and I have liked most of what he has put his name on as a producer.
This is easily Apatow’s most personal film, taking an intimate look at the rough life of chasing fame in Hollywood. The acting is pretty excellent, giving Sandler a dramatic role without getting too heavy like he has done in movies like “Punch Drunk Love” and the quite dreadful “Reign Over Me.” Seth Rogen actually steals the spotlight from Sandler at many points as the well-intentioned Ira.
And let’s not forget Eric Bana as Simmons’ ex-wife’s cheating husband, who steals a scene or two himself. The gallery of other young comedians – including Jonah Hill and the quite hilarious Aziz Ansari as Raaaaaaaandy (with 8 A’s) – give plenty of fine performances.
I happen to know my fair share of stand-up comedians, and Apatow seems to have captured the not-always-funny lives that they lead. There’s a lot of truth in this movie, and from a technical side, it’s pretty well made.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
Like any director who has seen an enormous amount of success over the years, Apatow is saddled with a massive and misdirected ego. This, to him, is like George’s leukemia. It is threatening to kill his career, but there is no experimental drug treatment for an ego like this.
As he has done before, Apatow not only casts his own wife (Leslie Mann) in a role of worship, he has also cast his own kids as her on-screen rugrats. I don’t blame the kids. They are cute, and I can’t say I wouldn’t put my own children in a film like this. But I can guarantee that I wouldn’t shoehorn my kid’s community theater rendition of “Memory” from “Cats” – and add it to the ending credits, if there were any doubt this wasn’t an overkill spotlight – into the story.
Apatow gushes through the character of George Simmons about how beautiful Mann is and how she is the perfect woman, which is all focused on physical features like how great her ass looks in a pair of jeans and how endearingly large her hands look. By the end of the film, this is about as annoying as watching the somewhat golden years of “Live with Regis and Kathy Lee” and hearing Ms. Gifford gush about her child.
What exacerbates the ego-driven piece is the not-so-obvious multiple cameos of real-life celebrities who console George Simmons in his time of need. It’s not presented in a cool way, which is usually how Kevin Smith manages to do it, but instead comes across as Apatow bragging about how many famous people he knows. I get it... you’re famous and rich, and you know other famous and rich people. Get over yourself.
Finally, the movie runs overly long. The unrated director’s cut adds about ten minutes, but I seriously saw no difference between that and its theatrical cut. I suppose the first half of the film could have worked, but the second half, loaded down with the director’s family, reveals that all the characters are worthless assholes, and I learned to hate them all by the ending credits.
The Blu-ray comes with a double disc that is filled with plenty of extra content. As a cinemaphile, I love this, but not being a fan of the film, I couldn’t take much of it. However, if you love this movie – and more importantly love the voyeuristic nature of watching the stand-up comedy world – you should love this Blu-ray.
Some of the additional footage includes deleted and extended scenes, an hour of the subjects own stand-up comedy, more than 15 minutes of alternate takes on the improved lines, early footage from Apatow and Sandler’s careers, Sandler’s original uncut prank phone calls, a pretty humorous two-part gag reel and the commentary track, of course.
There’s also a feature-length documentary that focuses on Apatow’s video diaries of the movie and an appearance by Apatow and Sandler on the “Charlie Rose Show.” As well, the Blu-ray comes empowered with the Pocket Blu app for the iPhone which allows you to control your Blu-ray player and download content to your portable device.
As someone who wasn’t a fan of this movie, what I found most interesting was the produced segments of the show-within-a-movie “Yo Teach,” as well as its faux behind-the-scenes documentary. Also, there’s an pretty funny spotlight on Aziz Ansari’s character of Raaaaaaaandy which I found better than the film itself.
WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Stand-up comedy junkies and those who worship at the church of Apatow.