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Starring: Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, Zoe Seldana, James Marsden
Writer: Dean Craig
Director: Neil LaBute
Company: Screen Gems

Death at a Funeral
is a remake of a 2007 Frank Oz film that was never properly released here. However, it has found its hands in many a film nerd and found an audience; an audience that is in understandable disbelief that this movie was remade only three years later. I, however, am not that upset about it. It's not Death at a Funeral is a shot for shot remake of a classic Hitchcock movie or anything; mainstream-wise, no one really knows the original at all. In fact, this Death at a Funeral, which was written by the original writer Dean Craig and directed by Neil LaBute, actually shares many of the same elements and jokes that were found in the Frank Oz version, with some changes here and there and I think I prefer this one instead...although I'm not necessarily a fan of either to be honest.

Chris Rock plays Aaron, a tax accountant and aspiring writer who is trying to hold the funeral of his recently passed father at the family home and as you can guess, it's hectic. His wife Michelle (Regina Hall) is trying to get pregnant and is hounding him about it. His mother (Loretta Devine) is in intense grief; Ryan (Martin Lawrence), Aaron's younger brother and a famous writer, is not really helping, preferring to nab a young nice looking woman he has scoped out. To top it all off, there's a mysterious man named Frank (Peter Dinklage) who has a secret about his father he is threatening to share with the whole family. Throw in a grouchy old man in a wheelchair (Danny Glover), a guy hopped up on a very potent hallucinogenic (James Marsden), a misplaced body, and you can imagine how many hijinks are sure to ensue.

If you have seen the original, the opening scene of this Death at a Funeral should tell you all you need to know about their approach to humor; they both start the same with the father's body being brought in to the house in preparation, and both end with the main character finding out that it is the wrong body. In the original, it is more subdued and you never see the person in the coffin; it is all shown in dialogue and mannerisms. In this one, not only do they show the body (it's an Asian man har har) and Chris Rock manages to crack a joke about it. This Death at a Funeral does not have subtlety to it, all the jokes are explained and are taken to a higher degree than in the original. There is a lot more energy to the cast, which is either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how much you love the British and Frank Oz better than Chris Rock (and try explaining that one without sounding racist).

Although a lot of the jokes are actually very similar, if not exactly the same, to the original, the cast delivers them over the top and it just feels very...off. It feels like Chris Rock and company are uncomfortable being in a movie like this, and the writing does not cater to them in the slightest. Tracy Morgan especially looks and sounds very out of place, his manic energy that we are all used to not fitting in very well to the more low key nature of this movie. Chris Rock also spends the whole time playing the straight man who has to deal with the chaos, which is a very different role for him and something I had to adjust to. It felt like he really wanted to go crazy, but couldn't. Regina Hall is very dialed back and almost useless to the story, although it was nice to get a reprieve from her Scary Movie loudmouth role I've seen her do over the years.

At the same time, there are actually a lot of things to enjoy about Death at a Funeral. Peter Dinklage (who reprises his role from the original, but this time named Frank) is awesome as per usual whenever he shows up in something. Zoe Seldana and Columbus Short have some amusing moments, and I absolutely loved Danny Glover as the wheelchair bound Uncle Russell. His role amounted to just yelling and cursing, but he had me laughing every time he was on screen. Luke Wilson throws in a decent performance as well, but my favorite belonged to James Marsden as Oscar, Seldana's fiancee. After taking what he thinks is Valium to calm his nerves, he gets carte blanche to just act like an idiot for the rest of the movie and he gets all the best lines and scenes (his singing of "Amazing Grace" was excellent). That role was also my favorite in the original (when it was played by Wash from Firefly), but Marsden owns this time around and outdoes his predecessor.

There are funny moments (Uncle Russell's bathroom trip, hiding a body in the coffin) and lines that keep Death at a Funeral from being a complete waste of time, and some good performances, but overall, the pacing is off (I spent around thirty minutes thinking "GET ON WITH IT ALREADY!"), and the cast can sometimes feel like they have been miscast or just don't understand what the movie is supposed to be. Death at a Funeral is a fun ride, but it's a one time watch and I'd wait for a second run theater to get it. If you can't wait, catch a matinee.

Final Verdict:
C+




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