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Funny People

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


'FUNNY PEOPLE'—Leslie Mann and Adam Sandler star in a scene from the movie "Funny People."
With its thick crust of raunchy humor and ostensibly misguided sexual attitudes, "Funny People" (Universal) makes inappropriate viewing for all but the heartiest moviegoers.
 
Mature Catholics, well-grounded in their faith and willing to endure a barrage of vulgarity, may nonetheless discern in writer-director Judd Apatow's seriocomic tale a moving affirmation of moral courage, marital fidelity and the pursuit, however halting, of a meaningful, committed life.
 
During the 1994 Northridge earthquake in California, Apatow narrowly escaped death when the chimney of his house collapsed on his bedroom.
 
His reflection on that experience, and on the renewed appreciation for life that followed, provided the premise for this overlong but generally effective character study, which opens with comedian George Simmons (Adam Sandler) being told by his doctor that he has a rare form of leukemia and, in all likelihood, only a short time to live.
 
Though hugely successful as both a stand-up performer and a Hollywood star, George is a lonely, isolated man, alienated from his family and unable to bond emotionally with any of the fame-obsessed fans he easily seduces. A succession of unchallenging parts in puerile projects has also left him jaded.
 
So when he crosses paths with comedy novice Ira Wright (Seth Rogen)—whose youthful struggles remind him of his own early career—George offers Ira the multifaceted job of professional assistant, joke writer and sidekick. Entrusting him with the secret of his illness, George also expects Ira to serve as his companion, accompanying him on visits to the doctor and talking to him until he can fall asleep at night.
 
As George reassesses his life, and embarks on the course of experimental medication that offers his one slim hope of survival, he and his new protege bond. But their budding friendship, and George's aspirations to become a better person, are both put to the test by George's reunion with his now-married ex-girlfriend, Laura (Leslie Mann, Apatow's real-life spouse), the one woman he ever really loved.
 
Sandler is pitch-perfect throughout, projecting his character's cynicism and vulnerability with equal deftness. And Rogen is his match as the drama's unlikely moral compass.
 
Though hardly free of flaws—he unapologetically double-crosses one of his two friendly but competitive roommates (Jonah Hill and Jason Schwartzman)—Ira's fundamental decency circumscribes his hero-worship for George. His sexual restraint, displayed in his troubled relationship with fellow comic Daisy (Aubrey Plaza), undercuts the film's surface-level machismo, as does George's frank acknowledgment of the emptiness of his past conquests.
 
The film contains brief graphic nonmarital sexual activity, adultery, upper female nudity, pervasive rough and crude language, and a half-dozen uses of profanity. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted; persons under 17 years of age requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
 
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Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.


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John Paul II: “Open wide the doors to Christ,” urged John Paul II during the homily at the Mass when he was installed as pope in 1978. <br /><br />Born in Wadowice, Poland, Karol Jozef Wojtyla had lost his mother, father and older brother before his 21st birthday. Karol’s promising academic career at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University was cut short by the outbreak of World War II. While working in a quarry and a chemical factory, he enrolled in an “underground” seminary in Kraków. Ordained in 1946, he was immediately sent to Rome where he earned a doctorate in theology. <br /><br />Back in Poland, a short assignment as assistant pastor in a rural parish preceded his very fruitful chaplaincy for university students. Soon he earned a doctorate in philosophy and began teaching that subject at Poland’s University of Lublin. <br /><br />Communist officials allowed him to be appointed auxiliary bishop of Kraków in 1958, considering him a relatively harmless intellectual. They could not have been more wrong! <br /><br />He attended all four sessions of Vatican II and contributed especially to its <em>Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World</em>. Appointed as archbishop of Kraków in 1964, he was named a cardinal three years later. <br /><br />Elected pope in October 1978, he took the name of his short-lived, immediate predecessor. Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. In time, he made pastoral visits to 124 countries, including several with small Christian populations. <br /><br />He promoted ecumenical and interfaith initiatives, especially the 1986 Day of Prayer for World Peace in Assisi. He visited Rome’s Main Synagogue and the Western Wall in Jerusalem; he also established diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel. He improved Catholic-Muslim relations and in 2001 visited a mosque in Damascus, Syria. <br /><br />The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, a key event in John Paul’s ministry, was marked by special celebrations in Rome and elsewhere for Catholics and other Christians. Relations with the Orthodox Churches improved considerably during his ministry as pope. <br /><br />“Christ is the center of the universe and of human history” was the opening line of his 1979 encyclical, <em>Redeemer of the Human Race</em>. In 1995, he described himself to the United Nations General Assembly as “a witness to hope.” <br /><br />His 1979 visit to Poland encouraged the growth of the Solidarity movement there and the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe 10 years later. He began World Youth Day and traveled to several countries for those celebrations. He very much wanted to visit China and the Soviet Union but the governments in those countries prevented that. <br /><br />One of the most well-remembered photos of his pontificate was his one-on-one conversation in 1983 with Mehmet Ali Agca, who had attempted to assassinate him two years earlier. <br /><br />In his 27 years of papal ministry, John Paul II wrote 14 encyclicals and five books, canonized 482 saints and beatified 1,338 people. <br /><br />In the last years of his life, he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was forced to cut back on some of his activities. <br /><br />Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Paul II in 2011, and Pope Francis canonized him in 2014. American Catholic Blog Lord, may I have balance and measure in everything—except in Love. —St. Josemaría Escrivá

 
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