Capsule reviews of films opening this week:

“The Cove” — First comes the noise: a systematic banging of metal poles underwater, a wall of sound that frightens the dolphins and sends them scurrying in the opposite direction.


Capsule reviews of films opening this week:

“The Cove” — First comes the noise: a systematic banging of metal poles underwater, a wall of sound that frightens the dolphins and sends them scurrying in the opposite direction. Then comes the capture: Japanese fisherman drive these dolphins into a hidden cove, ensnaring them in their nets before deciding which should be sold to marine parks and which should be slaughtered for their meat.

Last comes the kill: They spear the creatures, haul them into their boats and take off, leaving behind what looks like a punchbowl of death. This process is depicted in gruesome detail in “The Cove,” a documentary that mixes advocacy journalism with the thrill of a heist.

Director Louie Psihoyos, former dolphin trainer Ric O’Barry and a team of divers and tech experts infiltrated this heavily protected cove in the coastal Japanese town of Taiji. Their aim was to expose the clandestine workings of a business in which dolphins that are caught for entertainment purposes go for up to $150,000. (The ones that end up in the marketplace, meanwhile, are chock-full of hazardous mercury.)

The irony in all this, of course, is O’Barry made his name capturing and training the dolphins who starred in the 1960s TV series “Flipper”; now, he’s a vocal force urging these creatures be released back to the ocean. Psihoyos’ film is effectively disturbing, and he aptly compares the plot to access and photograph these hunts to “Ocean’s Eleven.” But his film isn’t exactly balanced, with Japanese leaders and international whaling officials categorically coming off as duplicitous.

Rated PG-13 for disturbing content. 91 minutes. Three stars out of four.

“Funny People” — If only Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen hadn’t gotten in the car. If only they hadn’t left Los Angeles, where everything was going so well, and driven north to Marin County, where everything falls apart.

Judd Apatow would have had his most mature, accomplished film to date. Instead, the last hour or so meanders interminably, its tone wavering all over the place, leading to a quickie conclusion that feels pat.

And that is such a letdown when you consider the strength and ambition of the material that preceded it. “Funny People” provides the eternally adolescent Sandler with yet another opportunity to show his serious side, following substantive turns in “Punch-Drunk Love” and “Spanglish.”

But it also allows Apatow, as writer and director, to display some previously unexplored darker instincts, with a story that mixes his typically raunchy guy talk with deeper discussions about mortality. Both men rise to the challenge.

But Apatow should have maintained his focus on the friendship that forms between Sandler (as superstar George Simmons) and Rogen (as aspiring stand-up Ira Wright) as well as the established comics and wannabes that surround them.

Instead, he has his characters make an unnecessary road trip in search of George’s long-lost love — with both George and the film losing their way. George, who’s not exactly a thinly veiled version of the real-life Sandler, learns he has a terminal disease. He hires Ira as his assistant, joke writer and friend — and the one person in whom he feels comfortable confiding. Apatow’s wife, Leslie Mann, figures prominently in the tedious and overlong third act.

Rated R for language and crude sexual humor throughout, and some sexuality. 145 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.