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Death At A Funeral

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Death At A Funeral
Released on Wednesday, Jun 2 2010

If you're going to remake a fairly mediocre 2007 British comedy for an American audience at least attempt to improve it. Starring Chris Rock and (*shudder*) Martin Lawrence, Death At A Funeral is a lazy reheating of the original that loses any charm and subtlety possessed by the original. What it does retain is the ingenious plot, which does at least provide several laughs with its macabre and farcical nature.

Transported from the English countryside to sunny California, the movie focuses on a funeral of the father to squabbling brothers - the underachieving Aaron (Rock) and high-flying author Ryan (Lawrence). Various dysfunctional family members and hangers-on are in attendance, including Elaine (Zoe Saldana) and her current and former boyfriends Oscar (Luke Marsden) and Derek (Luke Wilson) respectively. Then up crops one very mysterious and diminutive guest armed with incriminating photos of the deceased. Throw in some hallucinogenic acid tablets mislabeled as Valium and mayhem quickly breaks loose.

It's quite easy to be overly critical about Death At A Funeral, simply because there is an absolutely brilliant comedy buried six feet under a script that's lacking witty dialogue and several performances that are grossly out of sync with the tone of the movie. What possessed director Neil LaBute (responsible for the risible Wicker Man remake) to cast Martin Lawrence as a celebrated writer? Presumably he'd choose Amy Winehouse to replace Julie Andrews in a remake of The Sound Of Music.

Even if Lawrence was selected to play the corpse at the funeral, he'd have found a way of unleashing his sickly gurning and feral facial expressions to kill any nearby gag. The obnoxious 'in your face' style of the former 'Big Momma' is contagious too, as James Marsden ruins the role of the narcotically-charged boyfriend (played with brilliance by Alan Tudyk in 2007) by mugging away far too much and stripping the situation of any remote plausibility.

Mercifully, Chris Rock puts in a restrained and sympathetic performance as the beleaguered son who yearns to win acceptance from his family. Peter Dinklage is similarly wonderful as the devious funeral-crasher Frank, in a role he reprises from the original. Danny Glover is also a hoot as Uncle Russell, a misanthropic and wheelchair-bound pensioner who makes Victor Meldrew look like a children's TV presenter.

At one point Uncle Russell remarks 'I'm too old for this s***', a homage to his Lethal Weapon catchphrase. Try replacing the word 'old' for 'good' and he would be a lot closer to the mark indeed.


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