"Death at a Funeral" Movie Review (2010)

4/17/2010 Posted by Admin

Movie Review

"Death at a Funeral"

Directed by Neil Labute, Written by Dean Craig, 90 Minutes, Rated R

By our guest blogger, Rob Stammitti

"Death at a Funeral" is a real oddity in the modern Hollywood trend of remaking foreign films. For one, the foreign film in question is British. Far from inaccessible. Plus, it was released just three years ago. I can't imagine it was that far out of public consciousness before previews started popping up for this American update. In fact, someone familiar with the British film (directed by Frank Oz and starring a plethora of well-known British performers) is likely to get a bit of deja vu from this film--because it's shot-for-shot, moment-for-moment, character-for-character, the exact same film, just with slightly Americanized dialogue ("house" for "flat," "$50,000" for "25,000 pounds") and a line-up of famed American comic actors (mostly African American, sans Luke Wilson and James Marsden).

Both films involve numerous wacky and darkly humorous antics revolving around the funeral of the father of two sons (here named Aaron and Ryan, played by Chris Rock and Martin Lawrence). Things go wrong from the start--the funeral home brings the wrong body in the coffin, a pretty bad omen of things to come--and as the mourners arrive, things only get worse.

For a remake, "Death" isn't bad at all. The jokes that really worked in the British film are still quite funny here, and the actors chosen for each respective role are pretty perfect counterparts. Chris Rock (also the brains behind this whole operation, producing the film and hiring former collaborator Neil Labute to direct) plays the straight man popularized by Matthew Macfadyen surprisingly well, giving one of his best performances in years, and the supporting cast, including Luke Wilson, Danny Glover, Tracy Morgan, and Zoe Saldana are really at the top of their game. In one of the strangest moves I've seen in the history of remakes, Peter Dinklage actually reprises his role from the original film. His performance is pretty much exactly the same--meaning it's one of the best of the film.

Quite an odd point about the film is that it was directed by the aforementioned Neil Labute, these for his unfortunate "Wicker Man" disaster or "Lakeview Terrace," but who started his career as a downright misanthropic and devilishly funny playwright. His film "In the Company of Men," for example, involves two men (one played by Aaron Eckhart in his first film role) tricking a deaf woman into falling love with them so they can dump her just for the heck of it. So, he's familiar with far darker territory than this--he raised quite a few eyebrows when he was revealed as the helmer--but interestingly enough, his style suits the film well enough and he's ultimately given us his best film in about a decade. Shame it had to be a shot-for-shot remake of another one.

And that's what it really comes down to--the film is funny. No doubt about it. The characters and situations are just as well-done as they were in Oz's version. But it has to be asked why this film needed to be made. Does it really appeal to American audiences more than Oz's film? Do British accents turn people off so much that they'd need Tracy Morgan to say the same lines as Andy Nyman before they're willing to watch it? I don't know--I think I want to give audiences more credit than that. Labute's "Funeral" is a fine film, just as fine as Oz's, but it's quite obviously a completely pointless effort, and anyone who's already seen the British film will just be going in and seeing the exact same film again. I suppose it's worth recommending for those who aren't familiar with the 2007 film, but if you've already seen it, I'm not sure this will be worth it.

Grade: B

View the trailer for "Death at a Funeral" below. What are your thoughts?

  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • StumbleUpon
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Technorati
  • Facebook
  • TwitThis
  • MySpace
  • LinkedIn
  • Live
  • Google
  • Reddit
  • Sphinn
  • Propeller
  • Slashdot
  • Netvibes