Imagine the worst funeral ever and then multiply it by a factor of ten. That’s pretty much what you get in Death at a Funeral, a sprawling mess of a film that trades humor and wit for cheap scatological jokes, laughs about gay dwarf sex, and naked hallucinogenic trips. Thankfully the film moves at a brisk pace, and the dead are buried without further incident. But there are a lot of shenanigans before it gets to that point.
You almost want to forgive the actors for taking part, and there’s a moment of unearned redemption in the end. Was it the appeal of working with other talented stars or filming under the direction of Frank Oz? It’s harder to believe that the script was the main draw, though the inanity might not come across so clearly on paper.
Relatives and family gather at a country home for the funeral of a family patriarch. His older son Daniel (Matthew Macfadyen) is in charge of the arrangements while his younger son (Rupert Graves), a famous writer living in New York, jets in at the last minute. Their cousins also scramble to arrive on time. Martha (Daisy Donovan) tries to calm her fiancé (Alan Tudyk) because they plan on announcing their engagement to her disapproving father (Peter Egan), and she accidentally gives her partner a hallucinogenic made by her pharmacy student brother (Kris Marshall). All the while, Daniel’s wife (Keeley Hawes) is pestering her husband about the down payment for a new home. With a family like this, you can bet that someone’s hiding a secret, and it with Peter (Peter Dinklage), a mysterious guest whom no one knows. Things go further south when the brothers find out his identity.
That this is all supposed to be rip-roaring black humor, some in bad taste, is not the movie’s worst offense. Simply, very little of this farce is worth the effort that goes into it. Each character is a one-note punchline, and the jokes are carried on for far too long. It’s funny when Tudyk’s character starts to see things but not when he’s still freaking out, just with fewer clothes, in the third act. For a comedy that involves a funeral, I’ll take Four Weddings any day.
Prod: Sidney Kimmel, Laurence Malkin, Diana Phillips, Share Stallings
Dir: Frank Oz
Writer: Dean Craig
Cast: Matthew Macfadyen, Rupert Graves, Keeley Hawes, Andy Nyman, Kris Marshall, Peter Dinklage, Daisy Donovan, Alan Tudyk, Ewan Bremner, Peter Vaughan, Thomas Wheatley, Jane Asher, Peter Egan
Time: 90 min
Country: United Kingdom