Death at a Funeral (Screen Gems, R)

LaBute takes their dryness and twists it into a culturally relevant riot. Most of the one-liners have to do with popular culture and a few potty jokes are the red, white and blue icing on the cake.

Death is usually not a laughing matter. In Death at a Funeral, director Neil LaBute makes this depressing event hilarious. Even if it is a remake of British Director Frank Oz’s 2006 Death at a Funeral, LaBute doesn’t completely bastardize the original. In popular American style, a film that was distinctly British adapted to fit the tastes of the “new world.” Shockingly, this film was given a new life.

After the death of his father, Aaron (Chris Rock) has to pull it together and host an in-house funeral. His dysfunctional family only gets together under such circumstances. The mourners are a large comedic cast, including Martin Lawrence, Zoë Saldaña, Tracy Morgan, Columbus Short, Luke Wilson, James Marsden, Peter Dinklage, Danny Glover and Regina Hall. Yes, that is a huge talent pool. After exposed scandalous secrets, childish rivalries and broken relationships, somehow they all get a grip and unite under Aaron’s eulogy. Not even hallucinogenic drugs keep this family unit broken.

Don’t think of it as cultural imperialism. The film may have the same name and narrative as a movie released four years ago, but it is unique to American culture in 2010. Death at a Funeral becomes a film with American faces and American humor. The Brits have their own love-it or hate-it comedic style. LaBute takes their dryness and twists it into a culturally relevant riot. Most of the one-liners have to do with popular culture and a few potty jokes are the red, white and blue icing on the cake. If Tiger’s scandal broke out a few months earlier, I am sure he would have been a topic for funny discussion. Oz made his comedy, and it is surprisingly easy to say that LaBute successfully recreated it to fit the U.S. It may be hard to trust, but just give it a chance to make you giggle.

With so many comedians on screen, it is hard not to enjoy LaBute’s version. Morgan and Marsden are the funniest. They both bust out some great acting moves. Morgan’s jokes groove at a perfect pace. Even the way he delivers simple lines is straight-up funny. Marsden was just as great. His roles are not usually comedic, but his physical comedy was top-notch. It looked like he was improvising like a pro. It’s also hard to forget about Danny Glover, who practically just yells a few curse words. This seasoned actor shines. The film wouldn’t have been as good without its talented cast.

Laughing things off is a necessity in life. In this case, it is a necessity for death too. LaBute respectfully takes someone else’s laughter from across the pond and packages it for an American audience. | Alice Telios

 

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