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Death At A Funeral

Death At A Funeral

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 2 out of 5

BRITISH comedy Death At A Funeral was released in 2007 to largely derisory reviews. It duly sunk without trace at the box office.

A farce built around a funeral, it’s now been given the remake treatment by Hollywood with marginally better results. But that’s damning it with faint praise.

By refusing to tinker too much, Chris Rock – who stars and produces – and Neil LaBute – who directs – have presented the same ingredients with a more ‘pop’ cast. It means that the same things that hindered the original also get in the way here – namely, over stretched jokes that simply aren’t that funny.

The story is simple. Frustrated writer and put-upon son Aaron (Rock) is hosting his father’s memorial at the family home and stressing about a number of issues. Primarily, it’s his eulogy, which everyone thinks should be delivered instead by his more successful younger brother (Martin Lawrence).

But there’s also his wife’s ovulating to take care of, his cousin (Zoe Saldana) and her acid-tripping white boyfriend (James Marsden), her trouble-making ex (Luke Wilson), a grouchy old uncle (Danny Glover) and a mysterious dwarf (Peter Dinklage, reprising his role from the original).

The main difference between the US and UK versions of Death At A Funeral lie in the comedic beats… the British version slow-built towards the big gags and played up the comedy of manners.

Its US cover version seeks to maintain a higher energy, bigger and more frequent laughs and a more crass attitude to the humour. It also makes more of the sibling rivalry element.

But while there are a couple of guilty pleasure chuckles thrown in (including the sight of 30 Rock‘s Tracy Morgan covered in the contents of Glover’s bowels), most of the comedy is repetitive and tedious.

A central joke involving Marsden’s naked acid tripper is overplayed and eventually irritating, while the various potshots at Aaron’s inability to deliver his mum a child are just plain unfunny.

A running joke involving Lawrence’s brother attempting to seduce a barely legal cousin is also in poor taste, while the likes of Morgan and Glover are just plain irritating.

There are occasional moments when the film strikes a more coherent mix between the humour and drama (mostly involving Rock’s put-upon sibling), but they’re all too fleeting.

LaBute has, of course, made a hash of another British classic, in the form of The Wicker Man. But at least this time he’s not dealing with classic material and Death At A Funeral IS better than his Nicolas Cage effort.

Alas, it’s not that good either… and more of a case that the original should have been left well alone.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 90mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: September 27, 2010