Movie Review for Death at a Funeral (2007)

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Review #505 of 365
Movie Review of Death at a Funeral (2007) [R] 90 minutes
WIP™ Scale: $14.50
Where Viewed: Landmark Mayan, Denver, CO
When 1st Seen: 13 August 2007
Time: 7:00 pm
DVD Release Date: 26 February 2008 (click date to purchase or pre-order)
Film's Official WebsiteFilm's Trailer

Soundtrack: order the CD below

Directed by: Frank Oz (The Stepford Wives)
Written by: Dean Craig (Caffeine)

Featured Cast (Where You Might Remember Him/Her From):
Matthew Macfadyen (Pride and Prejudice) • Keeley Hawes (Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story) • Andy Nyman (Wild Romance) • Ewen Bremner (Match Point) • Daisy Donovan (Millions) • Alan Tudyk (Knocked Up) • Jane Asher (Tirante el Blanco) • Kris Marshall ("Murder City") • Rupert Graves (V for Vendetta) • Peter Vaughan (Beauty) • Thomas Wheatley (The Murder Room) • Peter Egan ("Home Again") • Peter Dinklage (Find Me Guilty)

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After seeing Death at a Funeral, it's great to stop and think about how hard writers of such recently great USA-based comedy films like Knocked Up and Talladega Nights have worked to try to 'create' comedy. They concoct elaborate characters and with outrageous scenarios, and the results are great, but when they don't work so hard, the results aren't so great. While, the British seem to produce comedic films effortlessly by taking rather ordinary situations and just allowing the comedy to bubble up from within. Thus is the case of Dean Craig's script for the Frank Oz-directed Death at a Funeral, by far one of the most hilarious films at an organic level I've seen so far this decade.

"…by far one of the most hilarious films at an organic level I've seen so far this decade."
It all begins when Daniel (Matthew Macfadyen) receives the coffin of his late father the morning of the wake. The mortuary staff opens it for him to have a look at their work, and he exclaims, "Who's this?" recognizing, of course, that the chap in the box, is not his dad at all but, rather, "some poor member of the public" as he later explains to Jane (Keeley Hawes) his wife. From that first moment, we can glean this is not going to be just any ordinary funeral though if you let your imagination run wild you won't guess what's going to happen next to tickle the funny bone and split your sides with laughter. Every character in the ensemble is linked it several ways to the others that creates tension between them and opens the door for additional comedic moments. Sandra, Daniel's mother, apparently has not great affection for her daughter-in-law, for example, causing her at one point to say to Jane whilst Jane is seeking to offer her mum-in-law some comfort with a bit of tea, "Tea can do many things, Jane, but it can't bring back the dead." Little zingers like this line throughout the film demonstrate the tightly written dialogue embedded with subtle and more often than not incredibly funny stuff. By far the funniest angle, though comes from a trail of events that would have made the "Fawlty Towers" writers proud, whereby Martha (Daisy Donovan), the niece of the deceased, stops by the flat of her brother, Troy (Kris Marshall), to pick him up for the funeral. Her fiancée, Simon (Alan Tudyk) is a nervous wreck because he knows that her father, Victor (Peter Egan) loathes the very sight of him and will not be thrilled to learn of their engagement. Troy, who dabbled in pharmacology by trade, has mixed up a batch of powerful narcotics made mostly of LSD but with a chaser of some other ingredients to increase potency and hidden them in a valium bottle. As he rushes to put on his trousers, Jane happens upon the improperly labeled bottle and forces a tablet down Simon's throat to calm him down. By the time they get to the funeral, however, the pill has started to kick in and Simon begins to see beautiful colors and experience an indefatigable urge to commune with the lawn ornaments. This is only the tip of the iceberg, however, of the ruckus that Simon will cause throughout the event which has me rumbling with laughter even now. I shall not ruin any other humorous parts of the film except to mention: (a) Daniel, on top of bearing the burden of the planning for his father's funeral, has the additional burden of giving the eulogy despite the fact that it is Robert (Rupert Graves) who is known for being the family's best writer with several published novels under his belt and a New York penthouse apartment to show for it, (b) friend of the family, Howard (Andy Nyman), has been asked by Daniel to pick up wheelchair-bound, great uncle Alfie (Peter Vaughan) on his way to the funeral as accompanied by his friend Justin (Ewen Bremner) who is going only because he still pines for Martha whom he once dated, and (c) a little person named Peter (Peter Dinklage) will pop up at the funeral uninvited and unexpected with some news for Howard and Daniel about their father's secret life that will put everyone into a outrageously funny tailspin. Coffins will spill over, noises from within the coffin will be heard, expect the unexpected including a rooftop birthday suit near suicide attempt from one of the characters, and more than a few people will end up taking Justin's special pills.

Death at a Funeral is 90 minutes of uproarious good fun and adult comedy—no I wouldn't take children under 17 to see this film no matter how 'free' the tickets were! While Frank Oz may still best known in the USA for his incredible voices for puppets including: Bert, Grover, Cookie Monster, Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, and the most famous of all, Yoda, he also has a sizeable dossier of great comedic films under his belt. Hasn't the time come for him to be recognized as a British national treasure? His comedic talents are astounding, and this film is one of his greatest achievements. Take some time to track down this film as it may not be playing at every single multiplex in America like Superbad, but I can guarantee you won't be disappointed.

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Other Projects Featuring Death at a Funeral (2007)
Cast Members
Matthew MacfadyenKeeley HawesAndy Nyman
Ewen BremnerDaisy DonovanAlan Tudyk
Jane AsherKris MarshallRupert Graves
Peter VaughanPeter Egan
Frank Oz
Dean Craig

Review-lite Death at a Funeral (2007) [max of 150 words]
This hilarious comedy from Frank Oz will have you laughing from the opening of the casket revealing not the father of the family in question but some other poor chap delivered by mistake, to a surprising secret life of the dearly departed that sends his sons into a talespin. Featuring a great cast, brilliantly funny script, and a simple, no frills, non-high concept affair that allows the comedy to bubble up from within in an organic fashion making for one of the most amusing, original, and side-splitting comedies of the decade. Seek out Death at a Funeral because it won't be at every single multiplex like Superbad, but I guarantee you'll enjoy it will be worth the extra effort.

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