Contrary to lukewarm – or even bashing – critic reviews, audiences seem to have a different opinion on Frank Oz’s 2007 black comedy, or rather farce, Death at a Funeral. This is why, perhaps, its 2010 American remake (directed by Neil LaBute) is currently trending on Netflix.
The original film delivers quirky, rigid British humour in the perfect setting – a funeral. What starts off as a solemn situation soon dissolves into slapstick humour, followed by repeated mishaps that leave you in stitches. All the more, perhaps, because they remind you of how you had to stifle your giggles at a funeral you have been to before.
Dean Craig’s screenplay builds on that peculiar human reaction to funerals, where bickering, gossiping and hysterical laughter numb the tears. Self-pitying novelist Daniel (Matthew Macfadyen) is in charge of organising his father’s funeral and writing the perfect eulogy, while his successful brother Robert (Rupert Graves) gets all the attention. Relatives and friends show up one after another, setting the stage for misunderstandings and hilarious trouble ahead, including hallucinogenic drugs, a hypochondriac, well-kept secrets, a time-obsessed priest, and old uncle Alfie (Peter Vaughan), grossing everyone out in true Farrelly brothers’ style.
While a strange American guest (Peter Dinklage) appears out of nowhere, threatening the two sons with an earth-shattering secret about their father, the extended family is portrayed as the neurotic middle-class, never direct and perpetually frustrated. Disaster upon disaster, underrated Alan Tudyk (2014’s Dodgeball) shines as Simon in a frenetic performance that revives the clichéd idea of getting accidentally high as a kite.
Undoubtedly, the film strives to capture some of the essence of the 1960s madcap comedies featuring Peter Sellers, but leaves much to be desired – despite the cast’s dedicated performances. What pulls you in is the crackling tension between propriety and indecency, which manifests itself in the form of knee-jerk reactions and vulgarity. Remember to watch the rolling credits, as they include delicious bloopers of the cast breaking character and giving in to the hilarity of the moment.