'Death at a Funeral'
The American remake of the 2007 British film isn't better, but James Marstsers scores.The key to "Death at a Funeral," if you remember the original 2007 British comedy, is the stoned naked guy. The door-slamming, coffin-dropping farce is packed with funny characters and recognizable "types." But the nervous boyfriend given a " valium" that isn't valium and instead flips out is the comic coup de grace in this tale of a funeral gone oh-so-wrong.
Alan Tudyk was the brilliantly buzzed beau in the original. But James Marsden ("Enchanted") one-ups him in a turn so bent, so full of glee he could almost raise the dead or prop up a somewhat slow-footed movie.
The new "Funeral," directed by social commentator-director Neil LaBute, doesn't improve on the original, which wasn't exactly a classic despite its classic structure. The "mysterious stranger" ( Peter Dinklage) is the same in both films, a little man with a big family secret. But in filling the cast with funny people, none of whom has to carry the picture, LaBute allows Tracy Morgan, Chris Rock, Loretta Devine, Danny Glover and Marsden to score without trying too hard.
The Los Angeles-set funeral service is for a family patriarch. His tax accountant son Aaron (Chris Rock) has made the arrangements. He's also made big plans to buy a house and start a family with his wife (Regina Hall), who informs him she is ovulating. Aaron needs to collect half the cost of the burial from his famous writer brother ( Martin Lawrence), who has flown in to enjoy the favoritism of their doting mom (Loretta Devine).
Foul-mouthed, wheelchair-bound Uncle Russell (Danny Glover) is trucked in by family friend Norman (Tracy Morgan), whose colleague ( Luke Wilson) is no help. He's only there to hit on his ex, Elaine (Zoe Saldana). But all Elaine wants to get out of the day is a truce between her judgmental dad (Ron Glass) and her disdained boyfriend, Oscar (Marsden). That's where the pharmacologist brother (Columbus Short) with the fake valium comes in. And that's when Oscar snaps.
He buries his head in the bosom of the grieving widow (Devine) and, in the tradition of every inappropriate screen drunk before him, he sings. Not just any song and not just any style. He over-emotes "Amazing Grace," finding his inner Whitney Houston. A whiter-than-white white guy at a black funeral sending up a spiritual and doing it in what he sees as a "black" style.
That's a LaBute touch Tyler Perry should steal.
✭1/2 Death at a Funeral — 90 min. Rated R:
Language, drug content, sexual humor