August 19, 2010
Review - " Death at a Funeral " - (on DVD) By Roland Hansen
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Death at a Funeral
Directed by: Neil LaBute
Starring: Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, Loretta Devine, Zoe Saldana,
James Marsden, Peter Dinklage, Danny Glover, Tracy Morgan, Luke
In this century of shameless remakes, the industry has officially stopped
trying, and the concept of originality has essentially died. Death at a
Funeral, the latest burden by director Neil LaBute, is the epitome of such
banality and greed, being one of the fastest remakes in American film
history. Though, the joke’s on Hollywood here: This verbatim reprise of the
passable 2007 British original is merely a big name cast going through the
motions of the same tawdry script, resulting in a fat paycheck brashly
masked as zany garbage.
With recent recreations, directors have at least tried to conceal their
unoriginality with new plot devices, or CGI and 3D in regards to Louis
Leterrier’s somewhat entertaining Clash of the Titans. But not LaBute.
Working with the same writer, Dean Craig, he simply regurgitates what
Frank Oz already created, with the exception of a new setting: Los Angeles
instead of England and African-Americans instead of Caucasians. LaBute
even recasts Peter Dinklage as the film’s blackmailing little person, who is
far less funny than before.
The screwball story, or lack thereof, is simple. When brothers Aaron (Chris
Rock) and Ryan (Martin Lawrence) try to host a funeral for their recently
departed father, everything goes wrong: Their mother (Loretta Devine)
starts acting mental. Their cousin Elaine (Zoe Saldana) accidentally gives her boyfriend (James Marsden) acid. Their father’
s gay lover (Dinklage) shows up demanding money. Their grumpy Uncle Russell (Danny Glover) and friends Norman (Tracy
Morgan) and Derek (Luke Wilson) misbehave. There’s an endless amount of tasteless shenanigans.
This trite plot, however, is secondary to LaBute’s true attempted selling point: the talent, who, turns out, do a sloppy job at
what they’re getting paid the big bucks for. They simply show up and become black doppelgangers of the decent originals,
which doesn’t work. Chris Rock, who plays the only serious character of the bunch, is completely out of his element. He’ll
make you laugh: not because he’s being funny, but because his drama is terrible. And Martin Lawrence gets lost trying to
transform his typical persona into a more refined jerk.
The wittiness found in Oz's version lies in its use of subtlety and deadpan; nevertheless, LaBute's interpretation disregards
these elements. In particular moments of Craig's former script, smart lines speak for themselves. Contrary to this peep of
drollness, in the latter, the exact words are present yet followed by clownishness and slapstick fillers, like vulgarity and
ridiculous slaps to the face, dumbing down the material. In short, the humorous parts of the original are missing from this
unnecessary adaptation. See the original brittish version, it's far superior - or better yet rent Happiness Runs, it's also a
lousy movie but at least there are lots of naked breasts to entertain you.