Its shocking, really, that a movie with so many consistently funny peoplepeople from all different walks of funny, in factcould somehow, in the space of one movies worth of time, so completely and utterly combine to make a film so lacking in humor that it actually might cause people to question the validity of their opinions that said stars are, actually, comedians. Death at a Funeral should be hilarious, but even the commercials werent funny, which shouldve been an indication of the film to come. Benefit of the doubt won me over, and I, regrettably, gave it a try. Life lessonsometimes commercials are trying to help you.
The non-hilarity begins at the funeral of a dead rich guy whose family and such, consisting of sons Aaron (Chris Rock) and Ryan (Martin Lawrence), wife Cynthia (Loretta Devine), and a gaggle of friends and extendeds (Tracy Morgan, Zoe Saldana, Luke Wilson, Danny Glover), have gathered to pay their respects. Wrong corpses, unwittingly ingested hallucinogens, blackmail, and family bickering are all apparently prime material for bad jokes, and it all flashes by in a rapid-fire succession of desperate laugh at me moments.
I wanted this to be all that it could have been, or at least a little bit of what it could have been, because many of these actors have cracked me up at one time or another. There was potential, too, because funerals can be surprisingly entertaining and poignant, and done right, this could have struck that fine balance and come out smelling sweet. Then it started, and I realized that no, none of that was to be. There is absolutely nothing subtle about Death at a Funeral, and while its not necessary that comedy be full of clever wit and dry humor (Im as much of a sucker for a good banana peel tripping as anyone), when everything becomes the set-up for an obvious joke, especially when the obvious joke isnt funny or, as is the case mostly here, non-funny and crude, its really more just boring and disappointing. These are talented people, people! They should be given material on par with what they can do, not tired schtick requiring overacting, grossness, and uninspired attempts to engage a wandering audience into caring about a family who have all but proven themselves to be fairly unlikeable and unsympathetic. There is, apparently, an original version of this story, a British film made in 2007, thats written by the same guy but, for some reason, much, much betterI think I may check it out.
It's Got: An underused cast, Lame funnies, One or two laughs
It Needs: For me to see the original, To utilize the talent its given, To be so much better
Alternatives:Home for the Holidays, Why Did I Get Married?, The Royal Tennenbaums
With all those names in the cast, and a premise full of promise, Death at a Funeral is just THAT much more disappointing because of all that its not.