Death at a Funeral Cover Last year I went to a friend’s funeral. He was a clown. His pallbearers wore stilts. The vicar looked like Groucho Marx. His wife looked like Harpo Marx. And his coffin was made from a pile of discarded tax returns. True story, and reminded me of this film Directed by Neil LaBute; and Starring: Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, Danny Glover, Tracy Morgan, and Luke Wilson. It was made in 2010, and lasted for 92 minutes.

Death at a Funeral

It is very sad to say, but upon the day of his father’s funeral, Aaron Barnes (Chris Rock), is presented with one problem after another after another.

His mother, Cynthia (Loretta Devine), is distraught. His wife, Michelle (Regina Hall), wants a baby. Plus the funeral home that is tendering to his fathers service, is inept to say the least.

Please note, though, this isn't Aaron's main concern at this very morose time. Hell no! It is something else entirely.

But what is it? Is it anything to do with his womanizing brother, Ryan (Martin Lawrence), being a more established writer than he is? No – it’s not that. OK then, so what about when the funeral starts, and a family friend, Derek (Luke Wilson), starts hitting on his cousin, Elaine (Zoe Saldana)? Nope – it's not that either. Well, is it anything to do with his surly Uncle, Russell Barnes (Danny Glover), or his neurotic cousin, Norman (Tracy Morgan? Or what about Elaine’s boyfriend, Oscar (James Marsden), whom accidentally takes some of Elaine's brothers, Jeff (Columbus Short), secret stash, and then mistakenly knocks over Aaron's farther coffin whilst Aaron is eulogizing him.

Errr.... no.

Boy-oh-boy, so what the f*ck is Aaron's problem? Well, unfortunately, whist the funeral is put on hiatus due to Jeff’s mishap, a diminutive friend of Aaron’s father, Frank (Peter Dinklage), reveals to Aaron that his father was his ‘special friend’, and that he wants compensation to hide this fact from his mother, Cynthia.


So what can Aaron do about this? Pay Frank off? No – he can’t seem to bring himself to splash the cash. Instead, his brother, Ryan, tackles Frank to the floor, his cousin, Norman, inadvertently dopes Frank up with Jeff’s acid, and Jeff, himself, just tries to help out his family to quelch this situation from getting out of hand.

Still, is that at all possible? Can this situation get any more dire? Hmmm? Yes and no. As people turn up naked – people die – people shit on people’s hands – people are reborn – and most of the unpleasantness is put to rest.


Now believe it or not, I went to a funeral that was much more farcical than the one presented in this movie, 'Death at a Funeral'

It was my Grandfathers funeral in Cyprus.

You see, his coffin was made out of cardboard. It was loaded onto the back of a pick-up truck that was already full of fruit and vegetables for the wake after. My Uncle, who was on-board this pick-up truck, wanted to go to a café before the service, just to have something to drink. The priest complained that the family was making too much noise at the church (which they were). My Grandfathers wife (who is a big lady), almost knocked over his coffin when one of my Uncles had a hissy-fit. And worst of all, it was all in Greek!

Chris and Martin in Death at a Funeral

OK then, so what was funnier? My Grandfathers funeral? Or this film? Hmmm? Now that is a difficult question to answer really. My Grandfather funeral had more kebabs. And this film had more soul. Well, I suppose in retrospect, this film does have a slight edge over my Grandfathers funeral. Because the cast was great (Nubian-tastic) – the pretext was simple to follow (it wasn't in Greek) – and it was adapted from another British movie of the same name (thanks Wikipedia).

Nevertheless, is all of this enough to make 'Death at a Funeral' a stand out comedy film? Ohhhhh! Maybe. On a certain level. As I did find it very funny in places, whilst at other times it did seem somewhat over the top ‘humor wise’ – mainly because the ‘plot’ kept on plodding along in a direction that didn't really suit the style of this movie.

James and Sexy in Death at a Funeral

Now what I mean by this, is that this film is basically an Americanized version of a ‘fado farce’ – which heavily relies on a pretext that involves a lot of dips and valleys, and a momentum of sustainability. However, it is precisely in the department of ‘sustainability’ that this film comes up short.

I just found that the middle section of this film – or the 'gay midget revelation section' for use of an alternate term – did not have any form of credence to justify the plodding nature of this type of plot. Also, the start of the film – which was the ‘introduction section’ – had a much faster pace to it, thus making the middle section seem quite slow in comparison.

Death at a Funeral Film Poster

Granted, to juxtapose by negativity for a moment or two, all the actors really did put on a performance, with all of them having a time to shine, and making there character known. I was especially surprised my James Marsden, Columbus Short, and Tracy Morgan – because these three guys really stole the show for me.

Please don’t get me wrong, actors like Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, and Luke Wilson, did really well too – and lent a certain kinship to this piece that would have otherwise been missing with there absence. But, personally speaking, I like the more stupid characters by far, because they suited this style of film to a tea.

Overall, ‘Death at a Funeral’ is a real funny film, and has a style, a soul, and a grace that is very compelling and congenial at the same time. OK, so it may not have been as funny as my own Grandfathers funeral. But then again, that sordid episode in my life wasn’t a combination of 'Faulty Towers', 'Sanford and Son', and 'Four Weddings and a Funeral', either, huh?

Nice film – great cast – strained in places.


DEATH AT A FUNERAL DEATH AT A FUNERAL Reviewed by David Andrews on October 04, 2011 Rating: 5
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