Old 04-16-2010, 09:24 PM
Neil LaBute's Death at a Funeral (2010)

Here's the link to the published version of the review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:



Death at a Funeral (2010)

In an age of movies where remakes are churned out one after the other comes yet another with "Death at a Funeral," a remake of the hilarious comedy of the same name from all the way back in 2007. You read that right: 2007. Apparently ideas are so sparse nowadays in the movie business that even movies from just a couple of years ago need to be remade.

The film tells the story of a family as they come together for a funeral. The deceased was the father of Aaron (Chris Rock), who is going to give the eulogy, and Ryan (Martin Lawrence), a successful writer who lives in New York. Also in attendance are Elaine (Zoe Saldana) and her boyfriend Oscar (James Marsden). While they are at her brother Jeff's (Columbus Short) apartment, she gives Oscar a Valium, not knowing that the bottle actually contains a hallucinogenic drug that Jeff was going to give to a friend. This puts Oscar into a very strange state and makes for some very peculiar behavior at the funeral.

The main plot involves an acquaintance of Aaron's and Ryan's father, Frank (Peter Dinklage, reprising his role from the original). Frank privately tells Aaron that he and his father were very good friends, eventually showing his some photographs proving that they had been intimate together. Frank feels that he has been cheated by not getting anything from the will and now wants $30,000 because Aaron's father had promised that he would be looked after. If he is not given the money, he threatens to show the pictures to Aaron’s mother. This, on top of a disrupted funeral, along with other money troubles, just makes Aaron's day worse.

If this synopsis seems familiar, it's because it's the exact same one as the original film, but it doesn't stop there. This film parrots everything almost exactly as it was in the original down to nearly every single little detail. Several lines of dialogue were even lifted directly from the original's screenplay.

The whole point of a remake is usually to approach it from a fresh angle, to breathe new life into it by taking it in a slightly different direction from the original so that audiences are not just sitting through the exact same story that they've seen before. Apparently the screenwriter, Dean Craig, who also wrote the original, didn't know this, nor did any of the cast and crew.

What we end up with here is the most pointless remake since Gus Van Sant made his shot-for-shot remake of "Psycho" back in 1998, but even that was given 38 years before it got remade. This new version of "Death at a Funeral" was made merely two years after the original British film, assuming it was shot sometime in 2009.

The original had some great performances from actors who are not that well-known in America including Matthew Macfadyen and Rupert Graves as the brothers dealing with the crises of their father's funeral and the blackmailing lover. There was also a fantastic performance from Alan Tudyk as the boyfriend accidentally given the hallucinogenic drug.

The remake is filled with incredibly perfunctory performances where everyone seems like they are on autopilot. It's not that most of the performances are particularly bad, it's just that no one really seems to care, probably because they realize the absurdity of remaking this movie so soon with barely any changes made to it.

The main point here is, if this seems like it would be a funny movie to you, stay home and rent the original, as it's much better than this pointless exercise. Van Sant had his "Psycho" and now director Neil LaBute has had his "Death at a Funeral." Perhaps LaBute can now also move onto some original material.....or perhaps not, as he obviously didn't learn his lesson the first time with his horrendously bad remake of "The Wicker Man." 1.5/4 stars.
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Old 04-17-2010, 11:40 AM
Neil LaBute = LOL.

Oh, how you used to not suck.
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