From The Grio — The just released Death at a Funeral, the story of a Californian clan in mourning, is a retread of the Frank Oz-directed 2007 British comedy of the same name where a well-to-do English family comes undone at a funeral service as they face huge secrets and their own unresolved neuroses.
Flash to the present for a commercial, Americanized version of the story with a predominantly black cast. Chris Rock is the leading man in the role of the well-intentioned Aaron, who’s hosting his father’s funeral at the family home. Aaron is trying to hold it all together financially and emotionally, tending to his wife Michelle (Regina Hall)–who’s revving to have sex in order to get pregnant–and his high-strung mother Cynthia (Loretta Devine), whose love is showered far more upon younger brother Ryan (Martin Lawrence). Ryan’s success as a fiction writer only highlights Aaron’s own frustrated attempts at producing a novel.
Others come in with their own emotional conflicts, foibles and troubles, including tortured family friend Norman (Tracy Morgan), the grumpy Uncle Russell (Danny Glover), and cousin Elaine (Zoe Saldana) who inadvertently gives her boyfriend Oscar (James Marsden) a hallucinogenic pill. The biggest drama is that little person Frank (Peter Dinklage, who also appeared in the same role in the original) has been having an affair with the recently deceased patriarch and is ready to share pictures of their intimacy if he isn’t given $30,000.
While all the details are here to have an effective comedy, the sum total comes up short, as the film’s script and uneven direction is more concerned with hamming up its humor instead of presenting the story as a cohesive role.
In the British Death, while hijinks were integral parts of the film, the laughs served to showcase a first-rate ensemble performance. Oz directed a clever and often devilish treatise on the importance of messy truths, particularly for the English upper-crust. (Continue Reading Article @ The Grio…)
Photo Source: AP Photo/Screen Gems/Sony Pictures, Phil Bray