Review: ‘Death at a Funeral’

Friday, April 16 by

Death at a Funeral
R, 93m., 2010
Cast: Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, Zoe Saldana, James Marsden, Columbus Short, Regina King, Keith David, Peter Dinkaledge with Loretta Devine, Luke Wilson, Tracy Morgan and Danny Glover
Directed by Neil LaBute
Screenplay by Dean Craig based upon his 2007 UK screenplay of Death at a Funeral
 
Death at a Funeral is an uneven, occasionally funny remake of the 2007 sleeper British comedy.
 
As family and friends gather for a funeral in an upper class community of Los Angles, eldest son Aaron (Chris Rock, leading an All-Star cast) has to keep everything under control for one afternoon, as he is faced with drugged out family members, bodies popping out of caskets and a blackmailing little man (Peter Dinkaledge, reprising his role from the UK original).
 
The All-Star mourners include a mix of current favorite actors from Zoe Saldana, Columbus Short, and James Marsden, as well as comedians Martin Lawrence, Regina King, Tracy Morgan and old screen favorites like Loretta Devine, Keith David and Danny Glover. (Somewhere in this mad-batch of characters is Luke Wilson looking fatter and awkward as ever.)
 
Many of these acting styles don’t particular blend well, but work on their own time. What keeps it all from total disaster is director Neil LaBute.
 
LaBute treats this Americanized version more like a mad capped play from the 1940s (Harvey or You Can’t Take it with You, come to mind). The first 20 minutes of the movie has some snappy dialogue and hilarious stage tableaux, one of which contains 4 of his male leads starring over a body of a 5th actor.
 
Yet by the end LaBute’s direction feels tired and he lets go of a lot moments that could have been true comedically classic scenes, like the fight between Rock and Lawrence as battlin brothers could have packed a lot more punch than a bunch of school yard disses and soft blows.
 
A lot of this movies success really depends on your personal preferences; if you like Rock, Lawrence, and Morgan then this film is a great canvass for their own individual shticks to be let loose, but if you don’t then this is not a movie for you.
 
Death at a Funeral is something that is classical in the sense of mad capped comedies, but if you’ve seen the original then most of the big laugh-out surprises will be turning in their graves.
 
Grade: C