Sharon Waxman‘s things-are-looking-pretty-scary-at-Universal piece on The Wrap reported that Uni execs “unsuccesfully lobbied” Funny People director Judd Apatow “to cut the film by a half-hour.” This is surprising or startling? Aren’t suits always pressuring directors to cut their films? My point is that sometimes urging this isn’t wise for the film’s sake, and that this was one of those times.
Update: It’s understood by everyone except for Asian and Eastern European cave-dwellers that Adam Sandler plays a self-centered comedian in the film — i.e., a guy with a personality/attitude problem. Any idiot knows that 98% of movies that deal with this sort of thing always resort to some kind of “third-act wake-up” element. It’s great when you come across the occasional exception (such as Martin Ritt‘s Hud) but everyone knows about the 98% rule…hello? Nonetheless, some have complained about the following graph so here’s a spoiler warning…okay? The same whiners might also want to slam Roger Ebert for calling his Judd Apatow interview piece “Apatow on How To Learn Nothing From a Near-Death Experience.”
I realize I’m in the minority, but I had hardly any problems with Funny People ‘s final third. For me it satisfies because it delivers the Big Payoff. By this I mean the two big revelations about Adam Sandler‘s character — that (a) even a brush with death hasn’t modified his selfish-prick tendencies and yet (b) he has the capacity at the very end to at least recognize this shortcoming and to try to make amends with someone he’s hurt and pushed away.
For me it’s almost a Vincente Minelli/The Bad and the Beautiful -type ending. You obviously have to know this film and the ending to get what I’m saying.
I’m writing this because I really hate what that Waxman paragraph is implying, which is that Funny People is a problem movie facing an uphill box-office struggle. Not that she’s necessarily wrong but I hate the act of spreading poison pollen about a film that really doesn’t deserve it. A tough time with the lowbrows may be in store, but Funny People is an ascerbic, funny and relentlessly honest film that is quite personal and revelatory on Apatow and Sandler’s part.
And while I realize that Waxman wasn’t gunning for Funny People per se, the import of that paragraph in her story is emblematic of what creates an iffy/downbeat buzz in advance and helps to bring about a negative result.
I know — I sound like an Apatow publicist or propagandist.
Let’s say that perhaps Universal suits did want him to cut 30 minutes from the film’s final section. The point, as I understand it, is that Funny People was a creative gimme for Apatow. It was basically one of those “okay, I’ve made everyone a lot of money and now it’s time for me to make a growth-arc movie which may not kick box-office ass but will do reasonably well” type deals. Name-brand filmmakers have to make growth-arc films from time to time or they’ll go stale and flat.
It’s just unfortunate that Apatow’s growth-arc flick is being released in the midst of one of Universal’s most disappointing box-office streaks in a long while.
It’s doubly gloomy that NBC-Uni honcho Jeff Zucker admonished top Uni execs with these words: “Easy-to-digest concepts and wish fulfillment is in vogue. That’s not our slate. And the choices have been too costly. You’ve got to fix both those things.” In other words, put on your shallow hats and lower your standards.
Waxman reports that tracking indicates it may earn $20 million this weekend.