Reviews: Death at a Funeral (2007 and 2010 movies)

Death at a Funeral: the 2007 British original

I rather enjoyed this British ensemble comedy of strange characters and worse situations written by Dean Craig and directed by Frank Oz (also known for Bowfinger, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Little Shop or Horrors, etc., not to mention for being the voice of Miss Piggy and Yoda).

The protagonist is trying to hold things together for his father’s funeral, but he has to deal with problems that included an annoyingly self-centered brother everyone else admires, not to mention a blackmailer. There’s also a crotchety old uncle in a wheelchair who has a sudden need to go to the loo, and a female cousin is trying to deal with a fiancé accidentally given hallucinogens while simultaneously fending off a very weird guy who’s obsessed with her.

A curious bit of behind-the-scenes trivia: There’s a very brief bit (in the trailer below starting at 2:16) in which an older guest mentions skinny-dipping. That scene had to be shot early one morning, because the character actor playing the role is in real life a surgeon, and he had to leave for London by 11:30 to perform a leg amputation.

Death at a Funeral: the 2010 American remake

Comedian Chris Rock saw the original Death at a Funeral and like it even though it hadn’t done well in U.S. release, so he proposed remaking it with a bigger-name American cast that wound up including Martin Lawrence, Danny Glover, Zoë Saldaña, James Marsden, Tracy Jordan, and himself. Peter Dinklage reprised his role from the original and even did his own stunts, because apparently nobody else his height was available.

Both films feature pretty broad comedy, but the original was occasionally understated, an adjective that would not fit anything in this remake. I’d rate this one a bit funnier, but I thought the original a better movie over all, and there’s a lot I liked about each.

(Warning: Both trailers below give away a fair number of major plot developments, and while I don’t think they’d ruin your enjoyment of the movie, if you’re planning to watch either film anyway you might want to skip them.)

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