Death at a Funeral

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It takes British humour to make funerals funny

Jul 21, 2008
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:A quick sequence of odd events, with tons of weird characters - well-played.

Cons:The dialogue is sometimes too quick and indistinct to understand

The Bottom Line: Yet another British take on a funeral - funny and well worth watching!


Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.

Have you noticed that much of the British cinematography centers on weddings and funerals? Sometimes, it takes more than a single such event to make a movie (remember “Four Weddings and a Funeral”?), but in this case, we are dealing with just one. And it is an interesting family gathering, to say the least…

The film was recommended to me by a Russian friend, who saw it ahead of us backwards people in Moscow last January. Or is it that I completely missed its theatre release in the States? Well, anyway – I waited for the movie to come out on DVD here, and my patience was rewarded when I got it from Netflix last week.

So here I was, watching a British comedy about a funeral, directed by an American, Frank Oz, who is also responsible for the Little Shop of Horrors, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Stepford Wives – not a bad resume, if you ask me!

To enjoy the film, you need to be equipped with a developed sense to dark humour, with comical events coming at you in a rapid-fire sequence. Here, we encounter all the elements of old-fashioned vaudeville, but with decent dialogue (supplied by screenwriter Daniel Craig, who also wrote another of my favourites, Dirty Little Secrets.) In an aside, though, I have to add that the pace of the dialogue was a bit too fast for me: with the actors’ English accent (how weird!), I had to turn on the subtitles, not to miss some of the quick exchanges. But then it turned out that my reading is not up to pace, either – they were that fast.

So what do we have? Well, first of all, there is a foolproof collection of odd characters: a capricious old fart in a wheelchair (Peter Vaughan); a good, but hapless son (Matthew Macfadyen); his irresponsible, but highly successful brother (Rupert Graves); a drug-addict relative, who keeps losing his LCD in a Valium bottle (Kris Marshall); and the dwarf gay lover of the diseased (Peter Dinklage) – just to name a few.

Then, no comedy can go wrong with a sequence of errors and good old odd events: a wrong body delivered to the service; above-mentioned LCD taken by mistake; a blackmail attempt by the gay lover; a perceived murder of the above; an extra body in the coffin – again, to mention just a few. Add a few instances of toilet, priest and doctor humour, and you’ve got a winning combination!

Taking the cake is a hallucinating attorney (Alan Tudyk), who is in love with one of the nieces, against stern disapproval of her father. His hilarious delusions are perfectly believable, and his behaviour is well-played – bravo!

Making for a “human touch” is the evolution of the dutiful son Daniel, whose well-meaning attempts to deliver a stiff card-written eulogy are repeatedly interrupted by all sort of occurrences – until he manages to give a heart-felt speech about his father’s character, despite the horrid circumstances surrounding the event. The developments at the funeral also lead to a fairy-tale kind of metamorphosis of the selfish writer son, who finally decides to invite his mother to visit him in New York, to give some breathing space to his overwhelmed brother. Oh, and the hallucinating guy’s mate finally finds courage to confront the family with her choice, albeit at the least appropriate moment – which makes for better comedy, of course.

Despite a somewhat superfluous nature of all those changes, they do work in this film. It is a comedy, after all. The main accomplishment of the director is the fast pace of the movie, which allows him to paint his characters in wide and crude strokes – it wouldn’t work any other way in this film. So while “Hamlet” it is not, “The Death at a Funeral” is quite enjoyable.

And mind you, to keep the film interesting to the reader, I did not elaborate on the main plot twist of the movie – watch it and enjoy!



Recommend this product? Yes


Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Good for Groups
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older

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