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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

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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Philip Neri: Philip Neri was a sign of contradiction, combining popularity with piety against the background of a corrupt Rome and a disinterested clergy, the whole post-Renaissance malaise. 
<p>At an early age, he abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate. </p><p>As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome. </p><p>At the urging of his confessor, he was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way. </p><p>Some of his followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services. </p><p>The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns! (Cardinal Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory three centuries later.) </p><p>Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.</p> American Catholic Blog When we suffer, we don’t just come to understand the pain of Christ’s cross more, we come to understand the depth of God’s love for us: that he would endure such pain for us—in our place. We have a God who endured death so we would never have to do so.

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