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Death at a Funeral is Painful

Published August 17, 2007 in Movie Reviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of MGM.
Death at a Funeral Death at a Funeral
I like Frank Oz's movies, and quite a bit of British comedy frankly, so I really wanted to like Death at a Funeral. But from the very beginning it just played the easiest, most common jokes. It became painful to sit through.

Movie Review: Death at a Funeral

The funeral of a family patriarch becomes comic chaos when various dramas occur at the funeral. A nervous fiancé accidentally takes drugs and begins tripping out, the favored successful son becomes an albatross for the more loyal but less successful one, and an unknown person stirs up the most trouble with his revelation.

The very first joke is that the morticians brought the wrong body. Really? That's what we're going for here? It's so obvious and handled so business-like, as if "Yes, this will make people laugh." Everything that follows is the same.

There are all the cliché characters and with basic material, they struggle. There's the inconsiderate horndog, the neurotic whiner, the stunted artist, the accidentally high for his first time guy, the swearing old man. Allen Tudyk is great but playing the drug tripper is too easy. Without any clever humor, all the characters come across as the same old whiny British losers. There's not even a Hugh Grant to make it endearing.

Attendees fight over a parking space. It's hardly Seinfeld. The coffin tips over. Clerks did that without even showing it. Someone gets poop on their hand and face. Now, I'm all for a good poop joke but just getting pooped on isn't itself funny. Especially when they spend the whole movie setting up the old guy and he needs help with the bathroom. Might as well send a telegraph: "Poop joke approaching."

The comedy of errors is completely mechanical. An old guy has to go to the bathroom. Wonder if that's going to create problems? They tie up a little person. These are not organic confusions. This is reaching for a joke. The punchlines are exactly what you think will happen. There's no element of surprise.

Has there ever been a great funeral comedy? Four Weddings and a Funeral doesn't count because that's only 1/5th of the movie. Passed Away didn't make an impression on me. Eulogy, no. I guess Six Feet Under stole all the real laughs in their scattered moments of levity.

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Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of MGM.

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