Death at a Funeral (2007)

Synopsis: From acclaimed director Frank Oz (In & Out, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) comes “a fast, furious and riotously funny farce” (Maxim) that’ll have you dying with laughter!

As the mourners and guests at a British country manor struggle valiantly to “keep a stiff upper lip,” a dignified ceremony devolves into a hilarious, no-holds-barred debacle of misplaced cadavers, indecent exposure, and shocking family secrets. Death At A Funeral blows the lid off the proverbial coffin as “the film’s delicious comic flourishes…sight gags, slapstick, flawless timing… are served up by an outstanding cast” (O, The Oprah Magazine).
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Death at a Funeral (2007) 8.0

When I sat down to watch this film, I kept in mind what most reviews had said: it could have been so much better and it peters out along the way. Well, quite frankly, while these comments gave me perspective, I could easily have paid them no mind: ‘Death At A Funeral’ is actually a perfectly well constructed ensemble comedy on all counts.

It’s a fine return to form for director Frank Oz, who has been languishing on the side-lines a bit of late, unable to get a hit despite many years of successes. And the cast, which is all British and mostly unfamiliar to me, are absolutely perfect in their delivery – which is mostly played straight, even though circumstances do get out of hand (a small note to our Hollywood friends: comedy is frequently in the dialogue and/or situations, not the performances).

Sure, as with many comedies, there are bits I would have done a tad differently (hiding a second body in a casket?), maybe more subtly or not as broadly at times (bad-tripping boyfriend hanging around on the roof, naked!), but all in all I felt that the performances, the direction, the dialogue and the timing were all spot-on.

In fact, I have to wonder why it was remade at all.

Some critics were hopeful that the remake would right the wrongs inherent to the original. Personally, I don’t see why it was even necessary. And, since it was made but a couple of years after the original, it seems to me even more so redundant.

Perhaps Chris Rock and company thought it was genius and wanted to bring it to our shores after putting a more North American spin to it. Perhaps they felt that it was the perfect vehicle for their cast and crew and they thought it would make it a sure-fire hit. Maybe they thought, like some critics, that it had potential but that they could hone the material further.

I’ll be curious to find out… someday.

Until then, I am pleased to say that someone’s managed to make a classic farce about funerals – a touchy subject, at best, and one that is treated here with enough dignity to match the absurdity of the many situations that overlap madly all over one another.

While funerals are hardly the first place one might think of for a moment or two of levity, I highly recommend trying this ‘Death at a Funeral’; for lack of box office success, I think it at least deserves a second life on home video.

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