Death at a Funeral Review

For many folks out there, British comedies are a hit or miss scenario. Either you'll laugh raucously in the aisles of your theater or you sit there stone-faced wishing everyone wasn't quite so awkward. Personally - I think Brits are hilarious. Keep that in mind with this review as it will partially skew my opinion positively in favor of Death at a Funeral. Featuring a few stars most Americans will recognize and a bunch of Brits they won't, Death at a Funeral brings a lighter side to the proceedings of losing a loved one.

I think the factors that hold Death at a Funeral back from achieving comical greatness are timing and uninspired gags. Don't get me wrong, there are gags, jokes and hilarious situations galore - they just feel like they've been torn from other films. The problem with comedic timing might have something to do with the Director: Frank Oz. Why is that name familiar you might ask? Think Yoda. Hell, think all the damned Muppets. He was the engine to Jim Henson's think-tank. Henson dreamed up the freakish monster puppets and Mr. Oz gave them life. Sadly, I think Oz still handles his films like the stars are puppets. The uninspired gags and the comedic timing feel like the symptoms of too much control on the part of the director and not enough trust in the skills of the stars.

The story goes something like this: the patriarch of a family dies and the estranged siblings and mother come together to celebrate their father's life - only to encounter a snag or two, or three...or twelve. Aside from a midget with a dastardly mission, a step-brother on hallucinogenic drugs and envy between the two brothers - everything goes quite smoothly; which is to say chaos erupts.

With so many characters filling the screen the best performances come from the younger actors in the crowd. Matthew Mcfadyen, Alan Tudyk, Kris Marshall, Ewen Bremner, Rupert Graves and Peter Dinklage essentially carry the movie with everyone else as bit parts. As Daniel (Mcfadyen) and Robert (Graves) deal with paying for the funeral their sister deals with her husband (Tudyk) suffering from the side effects of drugs taken from Troy's (Marshall) house - side effects that lead him to nudity atop the family's house. All the while, the two brothers must deal with an interesting proposition offered to them by the mysterious guest played by Dinklage. As the movie reaches a climax it's hard to keep everything straight, which is exactly what helps the movie.

None of the jokes or gags are particularly hilarious, but the combined force of all the jokes mashed together at such a frenzied pace kicks everything up a few notches into a more respectable level of comedy. Tudyk truly is hilarious as a hallucinating fool - and the way people react to him is equally so. Beyond that, Rupert Graves deserves special mention for pulling off the part of the celebrity brother who's made it big and lost sight of family. His delivery of every line was perfect - really giving the film another level of credibility. Mcfadyen did well - considering he was the main character and thus on screen for about 75% of the film - but not remarkably so.

Is Death at a Funeral the funniest movie that came out this season? No. Is it worth your time? A question that can only be answered by your personal film preferences. Do you like British comedy? If not, steer clear - the comedy is nowhere near as blunt and obvious as Americans prefer. Except for the hallucinating bit - that's just funny for everyone. Other than that, Death at a Funeral will probably leave most American viewers feeling somewhat cold - save for those with a taste for the dry wit of a Brit. If you like the British comedic stylings then by all means - go seek it out. It's just now hitting wide release in standard theaters, you can still catch it.

"Death at a Funeral" opens August 17, 2007 and is rated R. Comedy. Directed by Frank Oz. Written by Dean Craig. Starring Alan Tudyk, Andy Nyman, Ewen Bremner, Keeley Hawes, Kris Marshall, Matthew Mcfadyen, Rupert Graces.

Lex Walker • Editor

He's a TV junkie with a penchant for watching the same movie six times in one sitting. If you really want to understand him you need to have grown up on Sgt. Bilko, Alien, Jurassic Park and Five Easy Pieces playing in an infinite loop. Recommend something to him - he'll watch it.


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