Death at a Funeral Kills, Sadly Again

Death at a Funeral

If you haven’t seen the recent remake of the 2007 Frank Oz film of the same title, Death at a Funeral, you should consider yourself lucky.  There is very little redeeming about this film, from a scattered script to nondescript performances and a loose plot that ultimately fails to deliver.  Not even the cast can keep the film from losing momentum, even though some of the top African-American actors working in the business today appear.  Danny Glover as the wheelchair bound, foul-mouthed uncle is relegated to grouchy one-liners and at times insensitive disabled person humor as a backdrop character devoid of relevance.  Peter Dinklage, who oddly enough appeared in the original 2007 version, is Frank, the estranged lover of the deceased, yet is only moderately more interesting; he too is more of a background character serving plot more than anything else. Chris Rock meanders, at times direction-less in the lead, his scenes with on-screen wife Regina Hall are insincere and discredited by gesture and results oriented acting more akin to slapstick than comedy or drama.  I’m not a fan of the term dramedy, though obvious the filmmakers intended this to fall somewhere in the vicinity.

If you’re looking for a few notable laughs from actors you admire or a filmmaker who has delivered films of mention in the past, Death at a Funeral (2010) might serve a momentary parlay from the troubles of your real world concerns.  But for every sight gag and one-line joke delivered as if the entire cast is in on something the audience is not, the film teeters on laborious at the cost of simple pleasures.

Tracy Morgan (SNL, 30 Rock) Keith David (The Thing, Platoon, The Bird, Men at Work) and Luke Wilson (Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, 3:10 to Yuma) appear among other, less notable character actors.  I was disappointed to see David underutilized as Reverend Davis, another stock character in a film where not even the co-stars stood a chance at meaningful exchanges or believable and fun setups that never pay off.  I firmly believe that Keith David has never fully been realized for his talent, though he has amassed an impression tally of over 150 television, film, and stage credits.

2007 Death at a Funeral directed by Frank Oz

Thankfully Death at a Funeral is a lean 90 minutes and just when things look like they can’t get any worse, the plot slams the lid closed and the credits roll.  The original film of the same name received higher marks and acceptance, reviewers and audiences perhaps more in-line with British farce and cheeky slapstick.

Oddly enough, amid mixed reviews, the film made a profit for director Neil LaBute whose previous works as writer and director include the stage play (1993) turned feature film (1997) In the Company of Men, Nurse Betty (2000), The Wicker Man (2006) and Lakeview Terrace in 2008 with Samuel Jackson as a Lose Angeles police officer on the edge of professional and personal calamity opposite Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington. It is unclear why LaBute thought a remake that is virtually unchanged from such a recent film of the same name and plot would be widely successful or inherently acclaimed as a comedy worth mentioning.  If his aim was to simply get in the proximity of the mark left by the first film, or any comedy before or since while assembling a roster of talented actors, I suppose he accomplished that; an under-achievement with next to zero theatrical sparkle.

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About rorydean

Rory Dean is a multi-medium artist, writer and new media strategist with a background as a creative consultant and technology liaison in the San Francisco Bay Area. His broad experiences and specialties include print-to-web publicity, promotions and design marketing using traditional and social media networks. As a motion pictures and television professional, his short films, productions and commercials have screened to domestic and international audiences. His connections to a diverse client base include artists, entertainers, corporations, non-profits and everyday people.. Dean is co-owner and founder of Dissave Pictures, a boutique production company focusing on audio, video, photography and multi-media designs. Dean's personal and professional background includes dreaming and avid notebook journaling, creative and copy writing, promotions and marketing, audio/video production, photography, videography, editing, web design and new media. He’s also a fan of collaboration and knows when to turn the reigns over, offer feedback, lead the team and step aside. His portfolio includes print, online, film, video, photography, graphic design and promotions. He’ll show you. He has a book and everything. "When not juggling various online worlds, I do a pretty good mime – but that’s another story."
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2 Responses to Death at a Funeral Kills, Sadly Again

  1. Rodney says:

    I find it hard to understand, even in this day or remakes, reboots and relaunches, that they’d make a film barely five years old already!! I can understand remaking a foreign language film into an English version (REC, Ringu etc etc) but to remake a quite recent American film again? Who green-lit this, and why? If they’re going to fritter away money for nothing, I’m looking to make a feature film and I’m going to be pushing the proverbial uphill to do so… lack of funds and all. Why not give me that money, and I’ll make a quality, properly done (and, new!) film that people will find original!
    I haven’t seen either version (I know, I know… spare me) but have heard the original is a real gem. Based on this, I think I’ll stick to the original.

    • rorydean says:

      Hey Rodney — Yeah, it’s stupefying isn’t it? I suppose one of these days I’m just going to have to get my butt to the city of angels and demons and take a stab at this producing thing, though admittedly that is the one area of filmmaking that appeals the least to me. I mean don’t get me wrong, bringing a project, let alone your own, to the light of day and then gently, affectionately ushering it out of the creative womb into the cold, harsh world of Hollywood sounds appealing in a masochistic kind of self indulgent way, but I’m more comfortable and therefore my wife and everyone around me is more comfortable, when flames are not erupting out of the top of my head because I can’t scrape together two quarters to pay two homeless guys to be stand-ins.

      With that being said, and all things being equal, reboots and relaunches are akin to waking up in the morning and realizing that the annoying turd from the night before that barfed on your shoes is in fact asleep next to you and for some reason you have to dig through his pockets to find out who the hell he is and whether or not he has cab fair.

      Good point about Ringu and the like, makes perfect sense given the propensity of American audiences to cringe at the sight of subtitles. Best with the project, we should discuss elsewhere — and yeah, I actually haven’t seen the original either but will refrain for the time being until my retinas return from the searing memory of the remake. E-gad!

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