Death at a Funeral
Funerals Can Be Funny, Too

I shared my opinion of remakes when I reviewed the new Clash of the Titans a few weeks ago, but the new version of Death at a Funeral is something of a rarity.  Most remakes are either of older movies—29 years in the case of Titans—or English-language versions of foreign film.  I suppose the original Death at a Funeral is technically a foreign film in terms of Hollywood, but that foreign country was Great Britain and the movie was in English.  It’s also not very old, being released only three years ago in 2007.  But the question of whether it is too soon to remake an English-language film is the subject for another day.  Right now, the question is, was it worth it?

The new version stars Chris Rock as Aaron, the eldest son hosting a funeral for his late father.  Among those in attendance are Aaron’s popular author brother Ryan, his grieving mother who won’t leave him alone about needing grandchildren, and his grumpy, wheelchair-bound uncle. This is one of those families that get together only for events like funerals, and it’s very easy to see why.  The complications that ensue include the delivery of the wrong casket, a nervous outsider who tries to relax by taking a couple of pills that he thinks are Vicodin, and a strange man who arrives with the intention of blackmailing the family out of thirty thousand dollars.

The blackmailer is played by Peter Dinklage, who played the same role in the original film.  The rest of the fine British cast has been replaced by some very funny people, including Rock, Martin Lawrence, and Tracy Morgan.  Morgan’s shtick, which was wasted and very annoying in Cop Out, actually works fairly well here when blended in with the styles of his co-stars.  Rock and Lawrence pretty much play the same characters we have seen them play many times before and draw their fair share of laughs.

James Marsden as Oscar in Death at a FuneralThe showiest role by far is filled by James Marsden, an actor not necessarily thought of for his comic chops.  He is quite funny here as the high-as-a-kite boyfriend of Zoe Saldana, but anyone who saw the original film will constantly be comparing him to Alan Tudyk, who completely stole that version.

The actors are really what carry this movie.  None of the hijinks are really that original, but the cast is able to pull it off rather successfully.  The laughs are delivered with a good amount of regularity and the few big set pieces, pretty much shot for shot taken from the original, are nevertheless quite effective.  Still, there are a couple of times when the movie resorts to cheap, dirty sight gags that are overused in a lot of modern comedies.

The movie takes place almost entirely on the grounds of the residence so at times the movie can feel a bit claustrophobic, especially thanks to some truly awful camerawork that pops up constantly.  Still, the laughs are good enough to cancel out the negatives that the average moviegoer probably isn’t going to care too much about anyway.  The remake may not completely live up to the original, but at least it comes close.

Death at a Funeral is rated R for “language, drug content and some sexual humor.”  There are some really dirty jokes and some foul language that push this one over the R barrier.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of Death at a Funeral.