Death at a Funeral is about the funeral of a family patriarch. Dark secrets are uncovered and long dormant resentments are brought screaming back to life. Frustrated writer Aaron (Chris Rock) bitterly resents the fame, money, and irresponsible lifestyle of his playboy older brother Ryan (Martin Lawrence). Family friend Derek (Luke Wilson) has his sights set on winning back his former flame Elaine (Zoe Saldana) from her fiancé Oscar (James Marsden), who has accidentally taken a powerful hallucinogen. Meanwhile, Frank (Peter Dinklage, reprising his role from the original) threatens to derail the proceedings by revealing his secret homosexual past with the newly deceased. He demands a payment of a mere 30 grand to keep it a secret.
This film should have been a winner. The cast includes top shelf comedians who know how to capitalize on an opportunity for a laugh. Unfortunately this script and the way it played out didn’t allow for much more than the occasional random chuckle. To me, Death at a Funeral was basically a series of crazy, ridiculous situations loosely strung together without comedic closure. This film has a really annoying way of making it painfully obvious that we are "supposed" to laugh at certain points. There were moments when I was genuinely amused, but the laughter seemed to be quickly fleeting. Danny Glover as the stodgy, grumpy uncle who wheels around this film yelling at people made me chuckle a time or two, but when Tracy Morgan ended up covered in his feces, I was done.
Chris Rock is many things to many people, but when he tosses himself into a comedy and takes on the role of the only intentionally unfunny person in the entire film, I have to wonder what he was thinking. Playing it nonchalant compared to Martin Lawrence’s wacky brand of humor was a task that didn’t suit Rock very well. It wasn’t that he was bad in the role; it was more that he was boring and lifeless. His interactions with his on screen wife seemed forced and the attempted comedy bit about their efforts to have a child did little more than help distract me from everything else that was going on. Chris Rock is a decent comedian, but here he failed to impress and did so seemingly on purpose?
It may seem like I have been harshly critical of this film, but I am a bit prejudiced in the fact that I loved the original 2007 version and I went into this rendition expecting mediocrity at best. I mean seriously, when James Marsden is attempting to fill the comedic shoes of Dodgeball’s "Steve the Pirate", what can you really expect? This cast does a decent job of making it work and there were some stand out moments, but all in all this film presents too many disconnected storylines that flat out fail to come together.
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