Monday, April 19, 2010

Movie Review: Death at a Funeral

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Funerals are a funny animal, especially when it's a family funeral. Living in Hawaii I haven't attended a family funeral in a number of years. The last time I attended a family function was my brother's wedding and someone made the comment, "it only seems the time this family gets together is for weddings and funerals." In the movie Death at a Funeral, two brothers Aaron and Ryan (Chris Rock and Martin Lawrence) make a similar comment saying that they only have reunions at funerals, in this case, it's their father's.

Aaron and his wife Michelle (Regina Hall) want to move out of his parents home into their own place. Aaron is supposed to give the eulogy since he's older but everyone was thinking that his published author brother would give it. Even when Ryan arrives from his first class flight from New York, he thought that he would be giving it. too Aaron insists that he'll be giving the eulogy once the funeral gets going.

The dad insisted on having a home funeral and Aaron is just trying to make it through the day as things happen to add more stress to the already stressful day. Uncle Duncan (Ron Glass) is there with his son, Jeff (Columbus Short) and daughter Elaine (Zoe Saldana) and her boyfriend Oscar (James Marsden). Duncan doesn't like Oscar and to help calm him down Elaine gives Oscar one of Jeff's Valium which turns out not to be a Valium but a hallucinogen. Elaine's ex boyfriend Derek (Luke Wilson) shows up with family friend Norman (Tracy Morgan) after they stopped to pick up wheel chair bound and crotchety uncle Russell (Danny Glover). Aaron is facing his wife who wants to have sex that day so she can become pregnant to relieve the pressure being put on them by the grieving widow Cynthia (Loretta Devine) who is upset that she doesn't yet have a grand child and constantly reminds Michelle of that fact.

After starting the day with the wrong body being delivered, the funeral progresses from bad to worse. Oscar freaks out as the drugs kick in causing him to knock over the casket which allows the body to fall out. During a short break to bring the situation under control Aaron is approached by Frank, an unknown little person (Peter Dinklage) saying that their dad and him were as Aaron pointed out later to Ryan, on the down low. Frank wasn't in the will and he feels that he's entitled to $30,000 or he'll expose their relationship with pictures that he brought to the funeral. Not a good day to be in Aaron's shoes.

Many of the family situations seem understandable, but the situation as a whole seems larger than life. Most of the humor worked while some didn't. Hey, I'm all in for a good fart joke, but they didn't have to revert to pure potty humor. Maybe if they brought Frank Oz back in to direct this it would have been better. What do you mean "back in"? Well, you see this is actually a remake of a 2007 movie of the same name that Frank directed. It was a British comedy that had the same set ups, relationships and occupations. Even Peter Dinklage reprises his role as the dead man's love interest. It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

These days Hollywood wants franchises where they can take proven characters and create new stories with them instead of spending the time, money and energy to come up with something without having to start from scratch. This seems to be a cost saving measure with a film where you change the location, the ethnicity of the family, and a few lines to try to make it appealing to a new audience. While not as original as I hoped, the power comedy cast didn't deliver a dead pan performance, but provided a lively time that for the most part people could enjoy. Extra kudos to James Marsden. It looked like he had an enjoyable time cutting loose and having fun as he explored the wild side of the characters psychotropic journey.

The movie runs 90 minutes and is rated R for sexual humor, drug content and language.

The Movie Monkey

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