So it’s come to this? Remakes, or my personal favorite, “re-imaginings,” a mere three years after the original came out? Seriously? It’s true; this is an American remake of the 2007 film, Death at a Funeral, directed by none other than Frank Oz. I will own up to having not seen that film, but this 2010 version may be the funniest surprise so far this year. Despite being at the hands of a questionable director, Death at a Funeral makes good use of its loaded cast and manages to combine dark comedy with mistaken drug use as well as could be asked for. Just play along.
The film opens on a solemn day. Aaron’s (Rock) father has died, and it’s time for the funeral. Things get off to a shaky start when the wrong body is delivered to the home for the procession. The funeral will serve as a family reunion of sorts. There’s Aaron’s brother, Ryan (Lawrence), a successful author who is perpetually broke. There are the friends (Morgan and Luke Wilson), the grumpy uncle (Glover), and the impatient Reverend (Keith David). Most curious, however, is Frank (Peter Dinklage), a man who purports to have had a different kind of friendship with Aaron’s father. Throw in a lot of mis-labeled pills consumed and you have a day that is more of a debacle than a remembrance.
Director Neil LaBute, most well-known for the 2006 remake of The Wicker Man (and the viral YouTube clips that ensued), does the right thing by letting the cast go to town. It’s not easy to make death or anything related to it funny, but this flick is so off-the-wall and berserk that you almost forget the whole thing takes place at a funeral. The situations here are largely funny, and there seems to be no limit for what Dean Craig’s screenplay can do with a very high James Marsden.
The cast is uniformly excellent, and I’m saying this about some people who normally couldn’t sell me a laugh. Chris Rock is mostly subdued as the level-headed Aaron. Once things get crazy, he’s able to switch into traditional Rock-mode. Martin Lawrence makes for a good foil. Every family has the person who’s doing well, but can never cough up any money. The funniest turn may be Danny Glover as the profane, wheelchair-bound Uncle who, yes, gets to say “I’m too old for this shit.”
There’s nothing particularly special or overly memorable about Death at a Funeral. It serves its purpose by providing ninety minutes of consistent laughter, though no scene really stands out from the others. It’s undoubtedly an above-average remake and fans of ensemble comedies will find a lot to like here. So it does remain possible, and against all odds, to have a successful remake of a film that’s only three years old. Just don’t count on it happening again anytime soon.
Studio: Screen Gems
Length: 90 Minutes
Rating: R for language, drug content and some sexual humor.
Theatrical Release: April 16, 2010
Directed by: Neil LaBute
Written by: Dean Craig
Cast: Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, Tracy Morgan, Danny Glover, Regina Hall