Death at a Funeral (2010) Review
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Three years ago, when I saw director Frank Oz’s outrageous dark comedy Death at a Funeral, there was already talk of a Hollywood remake—though I just couldn’t understand why. After all, as the old saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And the pitch-perfect British wit of the original definitely didn’t need fixing—especially not by Neil LaBute, director of films like Nicolas Cage’s The Wicker Man and the amusingly over-the-top Lakeview Terrace. But I was relieved to find that most of writer Dean Craig’s original script remains intact—and while the remake doesn’t have the same dry, witty charm as the original, at times, it’s still dead-on funny.

As friends and family begin to arrive for his father’s funeral, Aaron (Chris Rock) already has his hands full. He’s got to comfort his grieving mother (Loretta Devine), arrange for someone to pick up cranky Uncle Russell (Danny Glover), and write the eulogy. He’s also got to deal with his conceited little brother, Ryan (Martin Lawrence), a famous novelist, who’s flown home for the event.

Once the ceremony begins, though, things get even worse. Aaron’s cousin, Elaine (Zoe Saldana), has brought her fiancé, Oscar (James Marsden), who’s stoned on what he thought was valium (which he took to calm his nerves around his future father-in-law). And just when it seems like things couldn’t get any worse, Aaron’s dad’s old friend, Frank (Peter Dinklage), comes forward with some troubling news.

Like the original Death at a Funeral, the remake is full of outrageous physical comedy—especially from Marsden, who’s absolutely hilarious as poor Oscar. His comedic timing is impeccable—and it doesn’t hurt that he’s not afraid to make a complete fool of himself on camera. Marsden is easily the best thing about Death, though Dinklage, who reprises his role from the original, has some wonderful comedic moments, too. And even though Lawrence is rather bland and (understandably) annoying as the arrogant little brother, fortunately, he doesn’t really bring the rest of the cast down.

LaBute’s version of Death at a Funeral is definitely an entertaining adventure. In fact, I missed large chunks of dialogue because I couldn’t hear it over the audience’s howling. Still, it’s missing that subtle British wit that made the original so much fun. Leave it to the Brits to make a madcap comedy feel subtle, but it did, thanks to its dark, dry humor. The remake, on the other hand, is just plain silly, from beginning to end. The cast hams it up for the camera, occasionally taking it just a bit too far.

Of course, comedy so often comes down to personal preference. So if you love dry British humor, you’ll prefer the original Death at a Funeral (as I do). If you lean toward over-the-top wackiness, you’ll love this hammy remake. Either way, though, while the remake may have been largely unnecessary, its kooky, slapstick comedy is still good for a few laughs.

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