Reaching for a new low in a movie about getting accidentally high during a family memorial service, Death At A Funeral also manages to come up with possibly an entire new genre: post-mortem grossout, don’t ask. And while the original 2007 Frank Oz British farce on which this film is based was supposedly a barrel of laughs about a lost and found corpse in a coffin, the main question here is, did we really need to do this all over again. And we’re not just talking the funeral service fiasco rerun.
Relocating the story from the UK to an affluent African American clan, director Neil LaBute, whose last film Lakeview Terrace reassigned entrenched US racism to black suburbia, dredges up sour humor as a product of black homophobia. Not to mention laugh-out-lewd feces fun and games, and a little dwarf tossing here and there as a served up side order of mean spirited midget mockery.
Chris Rock is Aaron in Death At A Funeral, the son of a revered, just deceased patriarch whose family is gathering from around the country for the home service. And the delivery of the wrong corpse in the coffin is just the beginning of a series of mishaps. One guest loses a vial of dangerous designer silly pills mislabeled as valium, but really a potent hallucinogenic. Which ends up as a mistaken sedative in the digestive tract of Oscar (James Marsden), the nervous wreck boyfriend of Aaron’s cousin Elaine (Zoe Saldana). And he mistakenly ends up on the roof chasing karma, and minus his clothes.
Meanwhile, a mysterious gay midget (Peter Dinklage) with malice on his mind, infiltrates the proceedings in order to blackmail the family. And while successful novelist sibling Ryan (Martin Lawrence) pleads poverty and pesters his resentful underachiever brother to come up with the bucks for the payoff, family foe Norman (Tracy Morgan) tends to elder Uncle Russell’s (Danny Glover) bathroom accident. But ends up instead the facial recipient of Uncle’s, to put it as delicately as possible, excremental accident.
Getting bawdy about bereavement is likely the least of this film’s downside despite impressive performances, where insult relentlessly substitutes for humor. In any case, this Funeral is definitely not a movie to die for.