For many of my fellow countrymen, when they hear the title Death at a Funeral, it may conjure up this image:
At least that is what I imagine – working in Times Square I can remember vividly with some shock and horror staring at the massive poster on an afternoon of lunchtime errands. I thought to myself – how could they remake a film that was perfectly adequate and really did not need ‘Americanizing.’ (*Full disclosure – I did not see this version, so I will try to refrain from making any comparisons to the finished products).
A remake, you say? Yes indeed this long awaited pairing of Chris Rock and Martin Lawrence is a remake. I am not sure about the word of mouth promotion of the Neil LaBute 2010 offering but I suspect that there may have been mention of the British comedy of the same name released three years prior.
Well that is the version that I am here to talk about …
The 2007 installment is directed by British-born American director-actor (live and voice)-puppeteer Frank Oz. The ensemble cast features many names probably unknown to American audiences. That is, with the exception of Peter Dinklage (who, strangely enough is in BOTH versions) and the frankly underused Alan Tudyk.
The story takes place at an English country house and it is a solemn occasion; a family is gathering for the funeral of its patriarch. Every character we are introduced to brings with them their own sets of issues which will make this otherwise somber event one that you will not forget anytime soon.
What particularly works for me about this film are the performances of the actors. With every absurd and ludicrous turn the story takes, there is an understated deadpan delivery to the material that made my response even more pronounced.
My favorite review of the film comes courtesy of Ruth Stein of the San Francisco Chronicle, in which she states:
in the tradition of those classics, in black-and-white and starring Peter Sellers or Alec Guinness, in which disasters keep piling up, each one more drolly funny than the last.
That’s high praise for “Death,” but no more than it deserves. The humor manages to be simultaneously sophisticated, supremely silly and very dark.
That said, I know that this film will not work for everyone, especially, as can be extrapolated by Stein’s review, people who are not fans of (or unfamiliar with) the Ealing Studio comedies of the 1940s-and 50s which often featured Alec Guinness. If you do not like those films (Lavender Hill Mob, Kind Hearts and Coronets, etc.), then you may want to give this one a miss.
Has anyone seen the 2010 version? the 2007 version? Both? Let me know in the comments below.
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