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Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Little Late Film Review: Death at a Funeral (2010)

Death at a Funeral is a louder, more obnoxious, more profane and inept version of a mediocre but slightly entertaining British comedy of the same name from 2007.  The movie follows its source material almost to the letter, with the same characters and the same events that turn a patriarch’s wake into a circus.  Everything that happens in the film is taken from the original yet it is executed worse on every level. 

The cast is not without talent.  The list of popular stars includes Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, Tracy Morgan, Danny Glover, Luke Wilson, Keith David, James Marsden, Loretta Devine and Peter Dinklage reprising his role from the original.  Most of the stars do what they can with the weak material; Regina Hall, Luke Wilson and Chris Rock are good here in a more subdued roles.  The problem is much of the remainder of the cast shouts and overacts, even resorting to flailing and running around.  James Marsden takes over the far more talented Alan Tudyk’s role as the boyfriend of one of the bereaved who is inadvertently given a narcotic that causes him to hallucinate.  His performance is particularly bad, and could be the worst in the film.

Another performance, that of Peter Dinklage, is a testament to the poor direction by Neil LaBute.  While Dinklage was pretty good in the original, he is stale and out of place in this version.  Its the director’s pension for seeming to enjoy overacting that brings this film down, which is why it is so odd that Dinklage is so boring in this role.  LaBute is the director of such absurdities as Nurse Betty, Lakeview Terrace and the epitome of over-the-top cinema, the Wicker Man.  It shows.  This movie is much tamer than those, but it is still pretty hyperactive. 

The film has what I like to call editing A.D.D.  It never holds a shot more than a few seconds, bouncing between views.  Shaky cam and speedy tracking shots are also abundant.  This is a bad editing job, and it makes the film distracting and hard to watch at times, especially in dialogue.  Actor 1 speaks, cut to actor 2 for one second, back to actor 1 to finish his/her sentence, back to 2 for reaction, back to 1 for wait, back to 2 for retort.  What makes things worse is occasionally you will see a shot in the rapidly shuffling mix that works; a shot they could have used from the start for the whole or at least most of the conversation, which further points out the film’s technical ineptitude. 

All of that aside, Death at a Funeral is the immature younger brother of an already silly and strange comedy.  It falls into the category of “If I use lots of profanity, it will be funny.”  To make matters worse, and to make the film that much more insulting, the screenwriter of this version of the film wrote the script for the original.  Which is a testament to what the writer must think about the film’s target audience.  One scene in particular, which was already bad in the original (involving a particularly disgusting scatological gag), is dragged out and overdrawn in this version.  Stupid Americans like poop jokes.  At least, that’s how this film comes off.  It’s a dumbed down version of an already unsophisticated film which is pretty derisive.  What’s even more insulting is the film tries to get heartfelt in the end; an inexcusable insult to the audience that has been subjected to the level of humor you would read on the bathroom wall of a middle school for almost an hour and a half. 

In short, this is a stupid, condescending film assuming its target audience is to immature for the original, tamer material and pursues the over-the-top over the believable.  What’s worse, is there was absolutely no reason for this film to be made.  It is a remake of a film that was already only moderately funny at times, and while I found a small level of amusement in the British version, I found this movie to be amateurish in directorial execution, ridiculous and needlessly crude in its screenwriting, and very puerile in its humor.  If you absolutely have to see this film, see the original instead as this version is exactly the same material recycled poorly.

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