Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

ĎDeath at a Funeralí. HmmmÖ. So I saw the original movie a couple of years ago and while I could complain about Hollywood remaking stuff that was done already, particularly a movie that was done like two years ago, thatís become pointless at this juncture in American History. It would be like complaining about bankers being rotten or arguing with people who insist that the Earth is round. Itís a simple fact of life. You would think that Martin Lawrence and Chris Rock have enough juice to get their own movie made of some reasonable originality but weíre not complaining. But back to this rendition of ĎDeath at a Funeralí which for the most part is identical in almost every way to the wacky British original with the added bonus of an R. Kelly reference here and there and a closing out with Cameo, but as it turns out this one was funnier than the original if only because Chris Rock and Martin Lawrence do happen to be funnier than Matthew Macfadyen and Andy Nyman... as they should be. Still this doesnít make this movie any more necessary or relevant.

Aaron (Rock), a hard working Tax Accountant, has lost his father and this father of his has insisted that the funeral be held at his home. Note that my friend Arvell has informed me that this is something that Black people would never do, thus betraying the British / European basis of this film. Take it up with Arvell since he said it. Aaron is under a lot of stress. His wife Michelle (Regina Hall) is ovulating and is pressuring him for sex hours before the funeral. She only asks for five minutes which I might add would be more than enough time for me, personally speaking, in addition to giving her three and half extra minutes to do with as she so pleases. His mom Cynthia (Loretta Devine) is distraught and almost inconsolable, and his asshole brother Ryan (Lawrence) is late again. Add to that the funeral director has delivered the wrong body and Aaron is off to a sour day that will only get progressively worse.

As Aaron sits around being stressed out, working on his eulogy which everyone who is anyone in this movie thinks his asshole brother Ryan should be reading considering he is a successful author and all, we wait for the eclectic group of guest to arrive. These guests include Cousin Elaine (Zoe Saldana) and her fiancť Oscar who is stressed out over seeing Elaine's asshole father Duncan again (Ron Glass). Elaine picks up her brother Jeff (Columbus Short) who makes designer drugs in his spare time which Oscar accidentally takes and as such will act a fool for the entire ceremony. Also we have Wacky family friend Norman (Tracy Morgan) who is carting around Elaineís ex-boyfriend Derek (Luke Wilson) and is straddled with the job of picking up super angry and hostile Uncle Russell (Danny Glover). Reverend Davis (Keith David) will be calling the shots and there is one more visitor in the tiny Mr. Frank, played by Peter Dinklage, repeating his role from the original, who has a little secret to tell.

Oscar is stoned, Aaron is stressed, Michelle isnít wearing any panties, Ryan is macking a twelfth grader, Uncle Russell is pissed off, Mr. Frank is extorting and dad is rolling around on the floor. Weíve said this before but it holds true in this movie more than any otherÖ mayhem and chaos shall ensue.

The bottom line as we approach this movie ĎDeath at a Funeralí is that it did make me laugh. But then so did the original. This one made me laugh more I suppose, but Iím not all that far removed from seeing the first movie which makes it almost impossible not to compare the two films which is basically what Iím left with here. The major differences, obviously, is that the majority of the cast are Americans of African descent, but with the exception of a line or two, race isnít really an issue though they were serving fried catfish nuggets and potato salad at the wake. Thatís good eating right there. Neil LaBute is a fine director but he doesnít do anything here to separate this movie from what Frank Oz did in the original and the filmmakers made the choice to throttle Chris Rock back to make him more Matthew Macfadyen like, but why do that? Get somebody else or let Chris Rock do his thing. This movie also violates my oft stated First Rule of Comedy. Dookey isnít funny. Never has been, never will be. Do not put a scene of dookey interaction in your movie. Itís not funny, itís nasty. Donít do it.

All that said, ultimately the version of ĎDeath at a Funeralí did make me laugh. Even if the original never existed and despite the cast and location changes, this is still a movie that is very British in its theme and tone considering the whole outlandish farciful nature of the tale, and it did make me laugh. Yes it seems pointless and yes it would seem to us that they couldíve taken this fine cast of actors they assembled for this movie, the money that was spent on this movie and the talented director they hired for this movie and made their own damn filmÖ but I said I wouldnít complain and so Iím not complaining. Even though it reads like I am.

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