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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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Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions: Andrew Dung-Lac was one of 117 people martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Members of this group were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. All were canonized by St. John Paul II. 
<p>Christianity came to Vietnam (then three separate kingdoms) through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan. </p><p>The king of one of the kingdoms banned all foreign missionaries and tried to make all Vietnamese deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix. Like the priest-holes in Ireland during English persecution, many hiding places were offered in homes of the faithful. </p><p>Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century. During the six decades after 1820, between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed or subjected to great hardship. Foreign missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society, and Spanish Dominican priests and tertiaries. </p><p>Persecution broke out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected foreign missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with a rebellion led by of one of his sons. </p><p>The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. That year a treaty with France guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics, but it did not stop all persecution. </p><p>By 1954 there were over a million and a half Catholics—about seven percent of the population—in the north. Buddhists represented about 60 percent. Persistent persecution forced some 670,000 Catholics to abandon lands, homes and possessions and flee to the south. In 1964, there were still 833,000 Catholics in the north, but many were in prison. In the south, Catholics were enjoying the first decade of religious freedom in centuries, their numbers swelled by refugees. </p><p>During the Vietnamese war, Catholics again suffered in the north, and again moved to the south in great numbers. Now the whole country is under Communist rule.</p> American Catholic Blog To replace our sins with virtues may seem like a daunting task, but fortunately we can follow the example of the saints who have 
successfully defeated these sins in their lifetimes. They provide us with a way forward so that we, too, can live holy, virtuous lives.

 
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