When death is funny: this farce remake will have you in stitches

2010-06-28 00:00

FROM the witty and inventive opening credits of Death at a Funeral to the very last frame, it had me in stitches. Even the guy sitting next to me mentioned to his girlfriend, “Now that’s what a comedy should be.” The loud roars of laughter in the audience shook the CineCentre cinema. Death at a Funeral is one of those rare films that brings an ensemble cast together with a brilliantly written comedic screenplay.

Funerals and deaths are one part of life that we tend to take seriously and it begins for Aaron (Chris Rock) that way as he tries to find time to practice a eulogy for his father.

Unfortunately for him, he is an aspirant writer living in the shadow of his brother’s published successes. Friends and guests tend to be continually dismissive of him even as he tries to hold the rapidly unravelling funeral together. At the same time, his wife, feeling rather broody, hassles him for nookie and then there is a shocking revelation from his father’s past. When he finally delivers his unrehearsed tribute to his father towards the end of the film, its honesty and frankness touch the guests and go to prove that chaos is sometimes vital for stripping away our pretences.

The ensemble cast, with a smattering of big-name stars, play their diverse and conflicted characters with alternating gusto and restraint. What is most refreshing, and credit to the director for this, is that he has extracted character-driven performances from the big-name stars. Chris Rock, often the foul-mouthed, in-your-face stand–up comic or the deliverer of deadpan ironies, plays the harried Aaron with restraint. We expect the explosion or the streetwise wisdom, but the performance stays true. It’s a nice tension to bear for audiences subjected to the stereotypes of poorly written comedy.

Martin Lawrence, for me, often “Schusterises” the genre by looking for the cheap laugh, but in Death at a Funeral he plays the successful brother with sugar-daddy tendencies as a genuinely likeable rogue. Even Danny Glover of Lethal Weapon fame makes an appearance as a cantankerous uncle and refreshingly is the only really foul-mouthed character. James Marsden as a future-in-law is also a stand-out after ingesting a hallucinogenic substance.

Death at a Funeral, a remake of the successful 2007 funeral farce, will genuinely lift your spirits

****

 

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