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Friday, April 16, 2010

Hollywood Product: Death at a Funeral

click to enlarge FIT TO BE TIED: Aaron (Chris Rock, left) and brother Ryan (Martin Lawrence) try to stymie Frank (Peter Dinklage) from telling a family secret in "Death at a Funeral."
  • FIT TO BE TIED: Aaron (Chris Rock, left) and brother Ryan (Martin Lawrence) try to stymie Frank (Peter Dinklage) from telling a family secret in "Death at a Funeral."

GENRE: Black comedy (seriously)

THE PITCH: An urban take on the British original comedy. A conservative, family-focused Aaron (Chris Rock) desperately tries to hold things together as he leads his family through an in-home funeral service. Things become more complicated as he and his more successful brother Ryan (Martin Lawrence) tries to deal with his father’s close friend Frank (Peter Dinklage) who threatens to reveal disparaging insights about their late father.

MONEY SHOTS: Jittery family friend Norman (Tracy Morgan) tries to help a foul-mouthed, grumpy, wheelchair-ridden Uncle Russell to the toilet. Barely able to hold on to him as he seats him, Norman’s hand gets caught underneath as Uncle Russell relieves himself. When Norman is able to pull his hand away, its covered with shit.

BEST LINES: While on their way to the funeral, Norman has idle chat with his best friend Derek (Luke Wilson) on the road. As they drive along, Norman explains, “Everybody knows that Colonel Sanders stole that recipe from a Black woman named Jubeli. I’ll give him credit for the cole slaw, but that’s about it.

BEST SLAM LINE: “We all write checks, but he’s a real writer,” says Uncle Duncan (Ron Glass) to Aaron when he’s informed that Ryan, the published and successful writer would not be doing the eulogy.

ONE MORE TIME DANNY GLOVER: It’s thirteen years later and Glover still can’t escape his role as Murtaugh in Lethal Weapon. While he’s sitting on the toilet the camera cuts to a close up of Glover and he says the classic line, “I’m too old for this shit.”

BETTER THE SECOND TIME AROUND: Peter Dinklage’s and his character Frank is the only familiar face from the original movie. This time, Dinklage gets a few more laughs with raunchier one-liners and bouts of physical comedic moments that set his role apart from the original film  - and that’s worth mentioning.

FLESH FACTOR: Oscar (James Marsdsen) sky high from accidentally taking a hallucinogenic drug, steps out through the bathroom window and onto the roof completely naked.

WORKING STIFFS: Number of times the audience gets to view dead bodies – five. Number of jokes involving the dead patriarch – three.

BOTTOM LINE: Usually remakes involve major rewrites that tend to skew away from the original story. But director Neil LaBute was smart enough to leave the Dean Craig’s central story alone and instead focus the energy around an amazing ensemble cast. As in the original film, there are several lull points throughout the film that feel like forced links to tie all the jokes together, but this version seems to draw them out a bit longer and is clearly noticeable. Big kudos go out to Craig for having the ability to take his very British comedy and tweaking it for an urban American audience without making stereotypical jabs about race and all the dialog we often see in Black comedies. Overall Death at a Funeral transcends beyond the expectations and as before, delivers a smart and laugh-out-loud movie that makes for an unforgettable movie experience.

Death at a Funeral. 3 Stars. Directed by Neil LaBute, Stars, Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, Zoe Saldana, Tracy Morgan. Rated R. Opens Fri. April 16. At area theaters.

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