If it's crap ... We'll tell you
To hear Chris Rock tell it, he must think he’s the only African-American that watches movies with subtitles. He saw the French film, CHLOE IN THE AFTERNOON and fell so in love with it that he remade it (produced, directed, co-wrote, starred) as I THINK I LOVE MY WIFE. Barely a year later, he sat practically alone in a theater laughing his ass off at the 2007 British film, DEATH AT A FUNERAL.
With that he set out to use his Hollywood clout to wrangle his director from NURSE BETTY, Neil LaBute, and every African-American actor not currently contracted to appear in a Tyler Perry film for a scene-by-scene remake of the original DEATH AT A FUNERAL.
DEATH AT A FUNERAL is a day in the life of an American family coming together for the funeral ceremony for the father of Aaron (Chris Rock) and Ryan (Martin Lawrence). Aaron, the older son, lives with his wife Michelle (Regina Hall) at his parent's home with his contentious mother (Loretta Devine) while struggling to buy their own home and have children. Aaron envies Ryan because Ryan is a successful writer, which Aaron wants to be but has yet to have his novel published. There’s also resentment because Ryan spends
money on a first class ticket from New York to L.A. rather than help pay for the funeral expenses.
Their cousin Elaine (Zoe Saldana) and her fiancee Oscar (James Marsden) are on their way to pick up her brother Jeff (Columbus Short) before heading to the funeral. To ease Oscar's nerves, she gives him what she believes is Valium. Jeff later reveals to Elaine that it's not actually Valium, but a hallucinogenic drug he's concocted for his friend. Meanwhile, Elaine's ex-boyfriend Derek (Luke Wilson) is on his way to the funeral along with Norman (Tracy Morgan) carrying along cranky ol’Uncle Russell (Danny Glover).
Of course the obvious difference between the two movies is the new cast’s skin color (the exception being James Marsden in the Alan Tudyk role this time), so what stands out is the one thing that stays the same. Peter Dinklage reprises his role as the father’s blackmailing, secret gay lover. He plays it a little bit broader this time but not by much.
What makes it odd is how the script is written to where everybody refrains from- I dare say, they go out of their way to not refer to him as a dwarf.
“Honey, you see that guy down there?”“Which guy?”
“The one by the chips?”“No next to him.”
It’d be different if that was being played up for a joke but it is not. It’s like Dinklage had a rider in his contract that no one was allowed to refer to his height.It’s also glaring that Zoe Saldana is the stereotypical modern black yuppie chick that only dates white guys.
In the realm of standup comedy Chris Rock is a GOD! As a movies star…not so much. He doesn’t attach himself to the funniest projects and his poor acting skills help sink most of his own productions. Here where he plays the straight man he’s okay. And Martin Lawrence, who I usually find to be too obnoxious and schticky, is okay too. Even Tracy Morgan is restrained. Everything is toned down to a level that’s vulgar but safe at the same time. Surprisingly, it’s the least comedic actor, Danny Glover as Uncle Russell, who steals the movie with every one of his lines.
Commentary with Director Neil LaBute and Chris Rock
Death For Real
Death at a Funeral: Last Rites, Dark Secrets
The last three features are fairly standard mini interviews with the cast & crew about the production of the movie and their personal views on funerals. And while I was initially disappointed that one of my favorite writers, Neil LaBute (who, yes I know, directed The Wickerman) I had to admire his skills of being able to manage so many characters at one time in a confined space.
It’s admittedly a preferable alternative to being “niggerish” like so many other recent movies you might confuse it with. DEATH AT A FUNERAL certainly does have it's moments but it’s all less than what’s