More like Soul Funeral then British farce, but that’s not a bad thing
It’s always interesting to see what films get remade by Hollywood and which ones don’t. Usually it’s either because of time, i.e. it’s been long enough since the original that remaking it isn’t necessarily a bad thing, or because it’s in a foreign language and could be more accessible in English. Which makes the 2010 Death at a Funeral intriguing on a number of levels. Only three years old, and originally a British farce in English already, adapting it for American audiences seems to be redundant. Already accessible, the film played the art house circuit to strong reviews but never found its audience. Thus the remake seems to remedy that.
Focusing on the family of a patriarch who has just passed, Aaron (Rock) is hoping to make it through the day without incident. With his author brother (Martin Lawrence) coming into town from New York and a wife (Regina Hall) desperate for a child, he has his hands full. Throw in the fiancé (James Marsden) of his cousin (Zoe Saldana) who happens to be under the influence of a hallucinogenic her brother (Columbus Short) concocted, as well as her ex (Luke Wilson) who still is not over her and their angry Uncle Russell (Danny Glover), and you have the beginnings of an interesting day of mourning.
A virtual shot by shot remake of the original, Neil LaBute wisely has stuck to trying to make the material more accessible to an American audience while trying to retain the charm of the original. It doesn’t hurt that Dean Craig, who wrote the original film, adapted that film for this film; the continuity and pacing of the first is duplicated nearly effortlessly while adapting the film for a different audience and a different cast. Craig and LaBute have a much different cast the second time around then Frank Oz did; this is much more of a comedy cast then the dramatically based cast that Oz had. The film has been reworked to be much more of an outright comedy, as opposed to the subtle comedy the original was. It makes for an interesting look at the nature of British and American comedy in that both take virtually the same material and most of the same jokes, and use them differently for the same effect. A large part of it is because LaBute has assembled a cast worthy of the material.
And that’s the strength of the film; it’s loaded cast. There are no small parts in the film that are played by anyone without a high level of talent. A star like Luke Wilson, capable of anchoring a comedy by himself, is given a relatively small part but manages to be effective in the part. With this much talent it’s interesting to see how well they mesh together; most of the cast hasn’t worked together in this sort of capacity before and they mesh extremely well. The art of the ensemble comedy is much different because of the dynamics involved; it says a lot to the egos involved that no one is trying to steal a scene out from another member of the cast.
Unfortunately the film doesn’t quite reach the heights of its original because many of the jokes fall flat without the dry context of the original. Trying to be flashy with material that doesn’t need it eliminates an awful lot of the comedy from a number of jokes. While the hit to miss ratio is still comfortably on the hit side, there are enough noticeable misses to leave large gaps of the film that fall flat. It’s still a highly entertaining film, and a definite crowd pleaser, but there is something to be said about a film getting lost in translation. The remake of Death at a Funeral may not be the comic gem the original was, but it’s still a good comedy. Just not a great one.
Director: Neil LaBute Notable Cast: Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, Luke Wilson, Danny Glover, Regina Hall, James Marsden, Zoe Saldana, Columbus Short, Keith David, Ron Glass, Kevin Hart, Tracy Morgan, Peter Dinklage Writer(s): Dean Craig based on his own script for Death at a Funeral (2007)
Scott Sawitz is an Inside Pulse original. He's also been featured on The Ultimate Fighter.com, Fox Sports.com, Nerdcore Movement.com, CagePotato.com, Inside Fights.com and Film Arcade.net (among others). When Scott isn't writing about film he's making his own. Check out Drunk Justice Productions right here.