Death at a Funeral—Movie

Death at a Funeral, based on the English movie of the same name, is a well-made comedy with some great performances from some surprising sources.

Directed by Neil LaBute (The Shape of Things, Nurse Betty, In the Company of Men) and written by Dean Craig  (who also wrote the English version), Death at a Funeral begins with a comedy of errors…misplaced body and mislabeled pills…and takes off from there. Chris Rock and Martin Lawrence play brothers of the deceased, with Rock the less successful financially, albeit more responsible brother. Tracy Morgan is a friend of the family as is Zoe Saldano and Luke Wilson. James Marsden, Danny Glover, Loretta Devine, Ron Glass, Regina Hall and Keith David as other family members and friends round out a terrific ensemble cast. Additionally, Peter Dinklage reprises his role from the UK film as “friend” of the deceased.

At first glance LaBute seems an odd directing choice since he usually directs from his own screenplays which come from the very dark side of comedy. However, he gets some fabulous, nuanced performances from Chris Rock and Martin Lawrence. They actually act. Even Tracy Morgan is reined in to some extent.

Special kudos must be given to James Marsden. There seems to be nothing this man can’t do…singing and dancing in Enchanted and Hairspray, romantic comedy in 27 Dresses and drama in The Notebook. In Death at a Funeral, as Saldano’s nervous, mistakenly drugged boyfriend, he steals every scene he’s in. His performance is absolutely hysterical, but never goes over the top. An interesting aside is the use of race…or lack thereof in the film. Saldano’s father doesn’t dislike her boyfriend because he’s white since he’s enamored of her former white boyfriend (Luke Wilson). It has everything to do with professional status.

Death at a Funeral is not the thigh slapper one might have expected but is rather a funny, thoughtful comedy and certainly worth your time.

3 nuggets out of 4

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