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USA 2007
Directed by
Frank Oz
90 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
3.5 stars

Death At A Funeral

Synopsis: It is the day of a family funeral and various friends and relatives converge upon the house for the service. Tensions are rife. Son Daniel (Matthew McFadyen) must confront his famed novelist brother, Robert (Rupert Graves), while niece Martha (Daisy Donovan) must risk her father’s disapproval when she brings along her boyfriend, Simon (Alan Tudyk). Throw in a hypochondriac friend, an ex-lover chasing Martha, an accidental ingestion of some seriously hallucinogenic drugs, a cantankerous old uncle, and on top of it all a mystery guest from America, who threatens to expose some pretty shocking family secret concerning the dear departed and you have a recipe for a totally chaotic day.

Franz Oz takes an excellent script by Englishman Dean Craig that blends the best of British comedic sensibilities with several true-to-life heartfelt moments that we can all relate to, combines it with an element of farce and brings it home with a fine ensemble cast.

Who doesn’t fear the enforced family gathering? The entire collection of characters is fairly complicated and they are all introduced in the opening scenes as they make their way to the funeral. The first comic set-up appears very early when Martha and her anxious fiancé, Simon, pick up Troy (Kris Marshall), Martha’s brother, an aspiring chemist who makes hallucinogenic drugs on the side. When Martha gives Simon what she thinks is a valium that she finds on Troy’s table, the scene is set for what becomes a progressively hilarious plot line. Tudyk is absolutely remarkable in his ability to play comedy, with fluid facial gestures and a physicality that are hilarious. The extremely aggressive Uncle Alfie (played by British screen veteran Peter Vaughan) an old codger who is wheelchair-bound and extremely demanding also provides some serious fun. The final gag of the film involves him and it’s a winner. Jane Asher is a lovely presence as the widow, while Keeley Hawes puts in a strong turn in the small role of Daniel’s wife.

The action really doesn’t let up for a moment, and rises to a marvellous crescendo when the stranger from America (Peter Dinklage) turns up to throw a really big spoke in the family’s day. The scenes involving him employ the best aspects of farce and he’s a natural at the physical side of comedy.

Yet underlying all the humour is a seriously touching thread. The rivalry between the brothers Daniel and Robert is beautifully handled with a lovely resolution, while the true meaning of a person’s life, as reflected in the eulogy given to him, is also dealt with in a sensitive way that gives a moment’s pause from all the hilarity.

With so much to laugh at and plenty of irreverence this is a sure-fire winner that will have you rolling in the aisles but also experiencing some very credible and at times touching emotions

FYI: The film was remade by Chris Rock in 2010 with Neil LaBute directing. It was awful.




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