Death at a Funeral

This Time in Pasadena

         
 

16 April 2010| No Comments     by Sean Chavel

 

Better than expected but it’s made for a late-night viewing when half your senses are shut down and you just need something real broad. Some of you might be aware that the new Chris Rock movie Death at a Funeral is a remake of a British comedy – made in 2007. Talk about fast remakes. Dean Craig, the same writer, is credited both times. The entire situation template remains intact, some of the best lines salvaged from before, and some retooled for this all-black cast – many of them including Martin Lawrence, Tracy Morgan and Danny Glover doing their funniest big-screen work.

Some of the chunks of dialogue has been recycled, and yet oddly, it works somewhat better. I liked the 2007 Frank Oz film mildly, this time however, my laughter was more steady. The Uncle Russell toilet fiasco, with the Norman character gets his hands stuck in Uncle’s drawers while he is relieving himself, had disgusted me the first time out. Somehow I found it really funny this time. Is it because the comic timing between Glover and Morgan is better than the original British actors? The speediness of the editing which doesn’t stop for a moment to think?

Perhaps Morgan, a supporting player, has a great horrified look for a comedy as the guy that is in over his head. Rock and Lawrence, as brothers Aaron and Ryan, are the top two guys in the cast but Lawrence has all the great lines, and he gets to work with a running joke that he doesn’t have any movie to contribute to dad’s funeral. Other tension amounts because both of them are professional writers, but only Lawrence is published (are they soft-core porn novels?). The reverend signed up for the service to hear Lawrence’s eulogy – everybody else wants his eulogy, too – and Rock is insulted, repeatedly, because his upcoming eulogy is not desired.

Peter Dinklage (“The Station Agent”), as Frank, is the blackmailer who wants $30,000 from the brothers so he won’t show to their mom (Loretta Devine, “Waiting to Exhale”) revealing intimate homosexual photos with their dad. Dinklage, the only consistently working diminutive actor in the movies, is the only one to reprise his role from the 2007 film. Dealing earnestly with the problem, Rock agrees to shell out the money by check but then changes his mind. Then there is a wrestling match that ends with Dinklage getting tied up, with perhaps the plan, to keep him occupied until the funeral is over.

The mixed races relationship between Zoe Saldana (“Avatar”) and James Marsden (“The Box”) stands out at the funeral, especially after Marsden takes Valium. Only it’s not Valium, it was mislabeled in the container by a cousin. But there’s no prejudice really. Saldana’s father just wants her to be with the other white guy, played by Luke Wilson, whom might as well be playing average Joe Bauers. Marsden, high on what might be acid, wrecks the initial funeral service and runs havoc in a nude screwball way.

The film is directed by Neil LaBute who has never done this kind of comedy before. Previously he has made some nasty comedies (“In the Company of Men,” “Your Friends and Neighbors”), the kind that makes you wince at the selfishness of white collar man. Recently he directed Samuel L. Jackson in “Lakeview Terrace,” one of the most underrated thrillers in recent years. “Death at a Funeral” couldn’t be more different, but he lets his cast generously engage in their scenes while coherently shuffling back in forth between scenes that are in different interiors and exteriors in the house. This is a movie about a funeral service and two corpses, but LaBute keeps things rolling. 92 fast, surprisingly upbeat minutes.

92 Mintues. Rated R.

SCREWBALL COMEDY / MULTI-ENSEMBLE CAST / WEEKEND AFTERNOON VIEWING

Film Cousins: “Short Time” (1990); “Passed Away” (1992); “Death at a Funeral” (2007, Great Britain); “Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins” (2008).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.

 

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