Originally Reviewed – 5/4/2010
Funerals are rarely funny but somehow, someone always laughs at one. Not to be Debbie Depressing, but I’ve been at a few and inevitably somebody in the back of the room starts snickering about something. Maybe it’s just a natural reaction to tragedy, but there is humor to be mined from the morbid setting of a family funeral which is where this very funny British import finds its material.
The direct brother of the recently released Chris Rock film, Death At A Funeral is a smart, silly, if not uneven farce about a funeral gone horribly wrong. Featuring an ensemble cast of very talented British actors and directed by Frank Oz (yes, the Mrs Piggy, Yoda Frank Oz), DAAF tows the line between smart relational comedy and sophomoric gross out humor and while the film sometimes dips too strongly to either side, there is a lot to laugh at in this import.
The cast itself is unilaterally great, as each character compliments this family in hilarious turmoil. From the egotistical author back from the US for the first time in ages to the dwarf who claims to have a “special relationship” to the deceased, every character has the appropriate amount of depth to go with their craziness. The role of the elderly grandfather is particularly hilarious, especially in the “bathroom scene”, which is one of those aforementioned tip the scales scenes, but still provides belly laughs.
The script is also well done, giving the comedic actors lots of room to create the funny. Dialogue is quick, witty and completely genuine while the screenplay itself, although not without its pitfalls, allows the hilarious parts of the story to really shine. While every joke doesn’t work as it should, there is enough character to this film to make it work as a whole.
The film also takes time out of the lunacy to establish character connections, cement relationships and provide just enough back story to keep this film from spiraling into nonsense. The only real downside is that the story itself is barely believable and some of the jokes take the easy way out, but again, it’s a true farce in every sense of the word, so these types of transgressions are totally acceptable.
To be fair, I can imagine a good deal of people out there shunning this film for the subject matter alone, and if that’s the case with you, fair enough. While this film isn’t a masterpiece by any stretch, it’s a breezy hour and a half that will provide some laughs, some groans and the occasional guffaw. If the trailers and reviews for the remake are leaving you cold, get out there and give this film a spin. Chances are, you wont be disappointed.
Score – 70%