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Travis’ Rating: 7/10
Player Affinity Composite Rating: 3.7/10
(3 reviews total)
You don’t remake a movie this friggin’ soon! That’s what I told myself after hearing that Chris Rock would be remaking Frank Oz’s 2007 British comedy, Death at a Funeral, a well-stocked film with plenty of gags but somehow less funny than it should have been. Perhaps it had to do with me not always getting the English sense of humor. The cultural differences sometimes fly right over my head. Even though it was essentially one long gag, it seemed to be missing something.
So here we have the American version, dirtied up and urbanized for our comedic pleasure, and I’ll be darned if it isn’t better than the original. Chris Rock stars as Aaron, the “responsible” son set to bury his highly respected, deeply loved father. Martin Lawrence is his irresponsible brother, Ryan, a writer who only visits when it’s a special occasion, like when somebody kicks the bucket. They should have known it was going to be a bad day when the funeral home delivers an Asian man in the casket rather than dear ol’ Dad.
You can cut the tension in the house with a dull knife, and it only gets worse the more people show up. Aaron and his wife are being pressured into having a kid, Aaron’s trying to match his brother’s writing success and failing, jealous exes and cranky old uncles only add to the drama, with hilarious results. Even if you saw the original, the jokes are surprisingly fresher and livelier here, and that’s thanks to the talented ensemble cast director Neil Labute (The Wicker Man, Lakeview Terrace) put together. In particular, the standout is James Marsden as Oscar, the nervous boyfriend to Zoe Saldana’s Elaine. In an attempt to calm his nerves over meeting her father, who obviously hates him already, Oscar downs what he thinks is Zanax but turns out to be pharmaceutical grade ecstasy. Gags like this usually are dead on arrival, but Marsden has turned the corner from third string pretty boy to highly effective comedian over the last few years.
The rest of the cast reads like a who’s who of African-American cinema: Rock, Lawrence, Morgan, Saldana, Danny Glover, Columbus Short, Loretta Devine. “Funeral” manages to stay away from Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins territory by keeping the comedy universal.
And here I thought funerals were supposed to be somber affairs, but I laughed throughout. While I still might have some issues with seeing this remake done so soon, and basically you’re seeing the same film with different people involved, there’s no denying that Death at a Funeral works, and we can throw the stodgy old one into the urn where it belongs.
Death at a Funeral
Directed by Neil Labute
Written by Dean Craig
Starring: Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, Zoe Saldana
Other Player Affinity Reviews
Dinah thought: “Death at a Funeral stinks like a two-day-old corpse left to roast on asphalt. The terribly unfunny film adds to a long list of Chris Rock’s recent subpar endeavors. Besides a few half chuckles at Danny Glover’s crotchety old character Uncle Russell and Oscar (James Marsden) running around high and naked, the movie was utterly boring and more astoundingly devoid of humor. Tracy Morgan’s billing in the film as Norman should have been a warning sign in the first place. He is every bit his loud, annoying, and disgusting self. He spends much of the film literally covered in crap, a foreshadowing of the doldrums to come until the credits roll. Rating: 1/10
Simon thought: “There are movies that are simply, purely bad (just look at any Uwe Boll and Friedberg/Seltzer efforts to prove that much) and then there are those that are unwatchable in a way that seems to invent another subcategory of ineptness entirely. Death at A Funeral is one of such movies and with its mirthless, slapdash approach to comedy, stereotypes galore and performances ranging from respectable at best all the way down to suicide-inducing, I was squirming in my seat in a way I have done few times before. The fact that this is a remake (to the British film of the same name) seems to suggest little fault in causing the putrid pile of tripe that results. Though I would love to rant on and on about this film’s many (and egregious) shortcomings, the less said, the better.” Rating: 3/10
Player Affinity Composite Rating: 3.7/10