Frank Oz’s 2007 madcap comedy “Death at a Funeral” is a movie that did not need a remake, in the opinion in yours truly, and the wise move on your part would be to rent this version immediately and avoid the pointless rehash. 2007’s version finds the dysfunction taking place at a British country house, when the patriarch of a well-to-do family dies and friends and relatives cast away simmering tensions to attend his funeral.
Daniel (Matthew MacFadyen) is the dutiful son, perpetually disregarded in favor of his often absent brother (Rupert Graves.) Simon (Alan Tudyk) is the deceased man’s niece’s boyfriend, who trembles at the thought of coming face to face with his beloved (Daisy Donovan)’s disapproving father. Simon mistakenly consumes a hallucinogenic concoction in an attempt to ‘calm his nerves’ and spends the rest of the movie in a midst of a psychotic breakdown. You may think the portrayer of Simon will not be able to consistently draw laughs when handed out such a tough and over-the-top role, but Alan Tudyk (from the terrific TV series “Firefly”) may just win the honor of giving the most uproarious performance in a very funny movie.
The family’s issues are exacerbated by a lecherous guest (Ewen Bremner,) a mysterious and latently homosexual dwarf blackmailer (Peter Dinklage, who certainly showed potential before his breakout performance in HBO’s “Game of Thrones,”) and hallucinogens that get passed away like a game of ‘hot potato.’ During all this the guests attempt to keep a stiff upper lip- perfectly British, but the harder they try to give the dead man a ‘dignified send-off’ the more complicated things become.
This is a ensemble comedy, and even the actors who have somewhat boring roles (as a posed to drug-addled Tudyk and the socially hopeless hypochondriac Howard (Andy Nyman))- like Matthew MacFadyen- are very good with the material they’re given. I can’t think of a single weak spot in the cast. I couldn’t stop laughing at the crazy situations that befell this upper-class family when they were trying to behave like good, impeccably polite Brits. Great use of physical comedy, dark humor, and funny dialogue.
Frank Oz directed the comedy “In & Out” with Kevin Kline in the 90’s- which, despite occasional laughs, can’t compare to this as far as hilarity is concerned. This is not a movie to watch with your grandmother- there’s sexual content, language, mordant humor involving grief and death, and toilet jokes. Still, despite off-color content that might be attributed to American cinema , it’s still extremely British in style. The humor is in the fact that you can sympathize with and relate to the characters’ mortification and embarrassment while still laughing at them and not taking it too seriously.
If you’re not too sensitive about good taste (although I’m probably making it sound racier to the Liberal viewer than is necessary) I highly recommend this farce. The trailer truly doesn’t do it justice. Thanks to this movie, I am inspired to grow up into a old person of Uncle Alfie (Peter Vaughan)’s degree of meanness, hitting people with my cane and whatnot. You haven’t really lived until you’ve spent your twilight years being an insufferable ass. Anyway, I really hope my review inspires you to pick up this movie, as it is a riot with an unbeatable cast.