Saturday, April 17, 2010

Film Yap: Death at a Funeral (2010)

Films ought to stand on their own. It’s unfair to be constantly referring back to a previous incarnation because this review is supposed to only be about the newest version. That doesn’t entirely work for Death at a Funeral since it’s almost the exact same film. The original came out three years ago in England. It was a very funny film directed by Frank Oz. It gained a following here in America, which brings up the question: why remake it?

Chris Rock is the head of a family who gathers everybody together for the funeral of his father. Then all of the hijinks ensue. Martin Lawrence is the younger brother who won’t help pay for the funeral, but is adored by everybody. Tracy Morgan is overly concerned with a rash on his hands. Danny Glover is a cranky old man who keeps hitting people with his cane. Luke Wilson is still trying to go out with Zoe Saldana despite her being engaged to James Marsden who is accidently tripping on acid during the funeral. Also Peter Dinklage arrives with some shocking news about Rock’s father.

There is almost nothing new added to this version. There is a subplot where Rock’s wife, Regina King, wants to have sex all the time so she can get pregnant that falls flat. There is also a large handful of pop culture references that feel way too forced that they feel like a Jay Leno monologue. All of the subtlety is gone from the film and that really hurts the comedy. The reason the original was successful was because you have people who are trying to act respectful during this dramatic time but their own oblivion causes these conflicts. None of that his here. The only way I could tell it was a funeral was because characters kept saying it was.

Marsden is very amusing as he is freaking out the entire movie but that doesn’t juxtapose with anybody because he is just as big as Lawrence. In fact he may be smaller because Marsden plays the role like his part in Enchanted but it’s like he can still see the animated world. Lawrence, who is supposed to be an esteemed author, is saying lines like “That a** looks like it’s in grad school!” There’s even a part when Rock’s mom “accidently” hit King in the head and she dramatically falls out of her chair, arms flailing. Rock and Lawrence literally start kicking each other in the balls during one part!

The film just feels lazy. LaBute used to be a name to look forward to, but it’s almost like he’s proud about not caring about these films. He’s no longer going to be remembered for In the Company of Men but for things like this and The Wicker Man. The movie keeps shifting to a handheld camera technique, which was boring. The musical score was so over-the-top that it was condescending. “Get it! This is supposed to be zany!” He even seemed to have ruined Dinklage, who is one of my favorite actors right now. He’s the only actor who is in both films. I ranked his performance in the original up there with his amazing starring role in The Station Agent. There was a real emotional connection because he was the only character who seemed to be really grieving at the funeral. Here he is asked to play everything up and his character is just stripped down to being an antagonist.

The original is not a perfect film. There are a lot of gags that I don’t think work in either film. (Sorry, I don’t like poop humor.) However that one works because everything felt real. It was able to earn its emotional moments because they didn’t feel like plot devices and charactures. In this one, a few jokes still hold up and at least Saldana brings a good performance, but seriously…why was this even made?

2 of 5 Yaps

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