Death at a Funeral (tbc)

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Review byMatthew Turner3/06/2010

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 92 mins

Remarkably, the US remake succeeds where the UK original failed, smoothing out the rough edges and mining the material for better laughs, though it's still not quite as funny as it should have been.

What’s it all about?
Directed by Neil LaBute, Death at a Funeral is a remake of the 2007 British comedy directed by Frank Oz. Chris Rock stars as Aaron, an aspiring author trying to arrange his father’s funeral and dreading the arrival of his obnoxious famous-novelist brother Ryan (Martin Lawrence), while his wife Michelle (Regina Hall) is equally unenthusiastic at having to put up with Aaron's mother (Loretta Devine).

On the morning of the funeral, the family and friends arrive, with Aaron’s cousin Elaine (Zoe Saldana) anxious to make a good impression, but things quickly go wrong when it transpires that her fiance Oscar (James Marsden) has accidentally ingested a massive hallucinogen cooked up by her ne’er-do-well brother Jeff (Columbus Short). On top of that, Ryan’s arrival is every bit as irritating as Aaron had feared and the two brothers are soon at each other’s throats, until a mysterious guest (Peter Dinklage, reprising his role from the original) threatens to blackmail them with a sordid family secret.

The Good
Despite the fact that his previous big screen outings have suggested that he would even struggle to play a stand-up comedian, Chris Rock delivers his best performance to date as Aaron, underplaying it to strong effect and keeping the surrounding craziness grounded as a result. As with the original film, it's the hallucinating naked man (then Alan Tudyk, now James Marsden) who steals most of the laughs, but there's strong support from a fine comic cast that includes Danny Glover (as grouchy Uncle Russell), Tracy Morgan (as family friend Norman) and Luke Wilson (as Elaine's ex, Derek).

It seems very odd for director Neil LaBute to turn his hand to remaking Frank Oz comedies but, remarkably, he makes it work just that bit better than the original, largely by tweaking the gags and smoothing out the rougher edges.

The Bad
That said, Lawrence is still a charisma-free zone and Tracy Morgan isn't nearly as funny as the film seems to think he is, although he does make the gross-out toilet gag succeed where the original failed.

Worth seeing?
Death at a Funeral is a watchable and occasionally funny remake that succeeds thanks to a likeable central performance from Chris Rock and a strong ensemble cast.

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Content updated: 19/10/2019 21:38

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