This new version of Death at a Funeral changes little from its British forbearer while still delivering the big laughs and hitting all the big notes it just drags a bit at times and rarely finds a consistent stride.
The premise is simple, a family comes together for the main character’s father’s funeral and many a hijinks ensue. The less you know the funnier this film is so I won’t spoil any details as the film pretty much hits the ground running throwing us right into the midst of this day of mourning. One of the main brothers is looked upon as less then compared to his successful brother, a secretly engaged couple is nervous about breaking the news to the unapproving father of the bride, a crotchety old relative busting everyone’s chops, hallucinogenic drugs, deep hidden family secrets, and more. Now that’s it for story.
If you have seen the original film nothing is going to surprise you here, its almost beat for beat the same. Chris Rock and company Americanize the film and a couple changes pop up from scene to scene but Peter Dinklage even reprises his role in the original; a good decision actually if you ask me. The film is a bit all over the place at first but it settles in after a half hour or so and everyone is in the house but it hits its high notes when all hell breaks loose. This film had my audience rolling at times and I missed a couple follow up lines from time to time the laughter was so loud.
I just feel like it is hard to review this film holding the original so dearly. Having said that, I thought the film did a good job at capturing some of the magic of the original and I think if you don’t know what is coming this film will knock you on your ass with laughter. I would still go with the original if I had to pick only one of the two to watch, but honestly this isn’t to bad an alternative. Like I said it was almost like reviewing a movie I had already seen once and had an opinion of, but the fact that I didn’t loathe it and thought it did a pretty stand up job trying to match the original says quite a lot I think.
The cast is big and has not one weak point though I expected the two leads, Chris Rock and Martin Lawrence to have a bit more of a presence. Lawrence was possibly the weakest link in the film actually, not bringing much of anything to the table, especially compared to the supporting players. Rock had a lot of good one liners through out, and does a nice job playing the straight man, but while solid he doesn’t do anything we haven’t seen from him before. Tracey Morgan is great in a role that keeps getting worse and worse and he develops a character that isn’t just a rehash of Tracey Morgan. Zoe Saldana plays things straight effectively while being assaulted from two sides by James Marsden and Luke Wilson. Speaking of Marsden he steals the show every time he is on screen and while not quite as good as Tudyk in the same role in the original he isn’t too far behind. Danny Glover plays grumpy great though he doesn’t get much to do. Lastly, Dinklage nails one of the most crucial roles, again, and delivers a comparable performance to the original.
In the end, Death at a Funeral had plenty of laughs to spare and while it may loose its footing from time to time it never falters when it swings for the fences. There is a broad range of humor here and there will be something for just about everyone that walks in the theater. A great cast with lots of friendly faces you will be able to latch on to someone you have seen and liked before while being surprised by a few faces you might not be familiar with. While it won’t replace the original Frank Oz entry it is a solid remake that doesn’t try and reinvent the wheel and embracing the greatness of the original which didn’t have too many faults. While it didn’t quite capture all the same magic of the original it is a valid and worthy remake that will disappoint few I imagine; but don’t forget to check out the original as well.
Death at a Funeral is a B-