Death at a Funeral

Poor Danny Glover. Two of his most memorable moments on film have come with him sitting on the toilet. In 1989’s Lethal Weapon 2, he finds himself perched on a porcelain booby-trap. Now, in Death at a Funeral, he himself is the source of the… well, explosion.

It’s easily the funniest scene in this modern-day remake of the classic 2007 film. (Yep, you read that right, Death is an almost word-for-word remake of a film that’s not quite three years old. The only changes are the cast and the location– switched from London to Los Angeles.)

Chris Rock is Aaron, trying desperately to keep everything in line at his father’s funeral. The fact that the wrong coffin (and, therefore, wrong body) shows up doesn’t help anything, and life doesn’t get any easier when his baby brother, successful author Ryan (Martin Lawrence), arrives and instantly relegates Aaron to black sheep status.

The comedy of errors just keeps going and going. Cousin Elaine (Zoe Saldana) brings nervous boyfriend Oscar (James Marsden) along for the ride, and though he thinks he took a Valium to calm down, he actually took a hallucinogen. Suddenly he’s seeing imaginary small dogs and is acutely aware of the color green.

The always-hilarious Tracy Morgan kills (no pun intended) as family friend Norman, and his buddy Derek (Luke Wilson) is Elaine’s ex-boyfriend– the one her daddy would have much preferred she stayed with. And then there’s Glover who’s perfect as crotchety Uncle Russell.

Add Peter Dinklage to the mix (reprising his role as Frank from the ’07 version) as a man with… let’s jut say he’s got a few secrets, and you’ve got the makings of a very funny night at the movies.

Neil LaBute, known more for directing thrillers (Lakeview Terrace, The Wicker Man), proves he’s got a flair for comedy, handling the collision of a dozen different characters and storylines like a man deftly directing traffic at a busy intersection.

Oddly enough, the one low point is Rock. Horribly miscast, he’s saddled with being the straight man in all the craziness. He occasionally gets a chance to fire off a one-liner, especially at his baby-crazy (and ovulating) wife, but by and large he comes off a little like Robin Williams in Patch Adams. You keep waiting for him to say or do something off-the-wall and hilarious, but it never happens.

Thank goodness there’s enough zaniness going on around him. Between Lawrence, Morgan, Marsden, and Glover, the laughs keep coming at a rapid-fire pace.

If you weren’t laughing so hard, you might actually pity the man who was laid to rest among all this craziness… but not nearly as much as you pity the poor soul who had to clean that bathroom mirror. (You’ll know what I mean as soon as you see it.)

3.5/5 stars