Death at a Funeral (2010)

MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +2

Content: -4

Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, Tracy Morgan, Danny Glover, Regina Hall, Zoe Saldana, Ron Glass. . Family comedy. Written by Dean Craig. Directed by Neil LaBute.

FILM SYNOPSIS: A day in the life of an American family who come together to put a beloved husband and father to rest. As mourners gather at the family home, shocking revelations, festering resentments, ugly threats, blackmail and a misdirected corpse unleash lethal mayhem.

PREVIEW REVIEW: The original Death at a Funeral (made clear back in 2007) was done with a British cast and English sensibilities. The update focuses has the same plot, but from an African-American perspective.

The first version was bawdy to say the least. While viewing it, I remember thinking how much I appreciated the staid humor of 1950s English comedies, those satirical films released by Ealing Studios usually starring Peter Sellers and/or Alec Guinness. Like those pictures, Death at a Funeral contained a premise ripe for understated, mocking humor. Alas, itís a different time and filmmakers and many filmgoers seem more content with shock value (ďI canít believe I just saw that.Ē). For instance, thereís the casket falling, the body tumbling out before an astonished group of mourners; a man accidentally getting stoned and taking off his clothes in front of said mourners; and the enfeebled old man needing help onto a toilet. That scene leads to the most graphic depiction of excrement I can remember seeing in a movie (copied in nauseating detail for the remake). As gross as that sounds, a pretty, stylish-looking young woman sitting behind me laughed with the intensity of one who has just heard Abbott & Costelloís Whoís On First. The entire audience did the same for this scene in the newer version.

Perhaps it sounds prudish to object to toilet humor (in this case, literally), but I just donít find it clever. Shock value has been done to death throughout this era and itís lazy writing. As for the filmgoers, they sit in a theater watching and listening to objectionable material as if thatís the only venue from which laughs can be mined.

That said Iíve always liked Chris Rock and Martin Lawrence, despite the material theyíve built their careers upon. They come across as likable people and someday Iím looking forward to seeing them stretch as performers Ė maybe even into the dramatic. I think they have it in them, although that is an assumption not based upon the viewing of this movie.

DVD Alternatives: Each of the following was made by Ealing Studios in the 1950s and contains irreverent but understated sophisticated humor and reminds us that comedy need not come solely from anatomical and scatological graphicness. Kind Hearts and Coronets, The Lavender Hill Mob, and The Ladykillers (the 1955 version Ė not the Tom Hanks remake of a few years back).

Kind Hearts and Coronets. Black English comedy about a shunned man calculating the murder of his relatives so that he may inherit the family title and fortune. The violence is more implied than graphic and the storyís outcome just. Alec Guinness plays several of the murdered family members in this icily witty satire.

The Ladykillers is a droll comedy about some inept crooks plotting to rob a bank with the aid of a sweet, innocent old lady. Or is she? The 1955 British version with Alec Guinness, Herbert Lom, and Peter Sellers has a satirical bite. Lacking the crude language of the remake, it settles for wit and snappy storytelling. Better in so many ways than the American remake with Tom Hanks, here Alec Guinness and his gang are more eccentric than outlandish. Though it is old and in B&W, a turn-off for some, there are several hysterical moments.

The Lavender Hill Mob. Alec Guinness stars in this droll comedy about a timid bank clerk who comes up with the perfect scheme for robbing a gold bullion truck. Winner of 1951 Oscar for screenplay.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Sony Pictures

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: Crude sexual remarks and situations abound.

Obscene Language: Around 60 obscenities, nearly a split between the f- and s-words.

Profanity: Three profane uses of Christís name and six of Godís.

Violence: A nasty, blackmailing little person is set upon by those he has tried to blackmail. He is given several pills, thinking they are simply muscle relaxants, but they really are high potency narcotics. He also falls, hitting his head. Thinking heís dead, members of the wedding group hide the body in their relativeís casket.

Sex: Thereís a great deal of sexual innuendo and double entendres concerning the gay lifestyle. We learn that the dead man had a secret life, the blackmailer being his gay lover.

Nudity: A man is high on drugs, thinking they were only muscle relaxers. He strips off his clothes and we see him naked from behind in several scenes.

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: Throughout

Drugs: Several people get stoned, thinking they are only taking Valium, when in reality it is a form of LSD.

Other: Graphic crude situations, such as a man getting covered in human feces.

Running Time: 90 minutes
Intended Audience: Adults

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