As seems to be the norm in Hollywood these days, is a remake of a movie released with the same title in 2007. This may be a point of contention for potential viewers as it even sticks to the same script by Dean Craig, but the change in cast and director keeps this remake unique. Frankly, has been much enhanced the second time around, and is definitely worth a night at the movies.
Exactly like the original but with a change of names, the story follows Aaron (Chris Rock) on the day of his father’s funeral. His goal is to proceed with the ceremony and survive the company of his brother Ryan (Martin Lawrence), a famous writer. Surrounded by incompetent relations such as buffoon Norman (Tracy Morgan), the accidentally acid-tripping Oscar (James Marsden), a grieving mother and his brother’s debt, Aaron is barely holding the reception together.
The universe has somehow cursed the attendee’s lives to flirt with ruin, except for Uncle Russell (Danny Glover), whose crotchety attitude is perpetual. Even the deceased is not immune from misfortune, as the “biggest” reveal may be Frank, his jilted lover, and Frank’s blackmail of Aaron for hush money. The plot points of the story are exact to the original, but this film packs in much more comedy. Every memorable scene seems to have at least twice the dialog of its mirror in the predecessor. There may be familial gatherings like this, but I doubt any real situation could be so disastrous or star-studded.
I believe it is the change of cast that adds bold comedy the original lacked. Chris Rock is a great choice for the starring role in comparison to the previous holder Matthew Macfadyen. As a comedian, Rock has an extreme talent for taking Aaron’s pressures and channeling them into witty retorts and pointed observations. Macfadyen instead takes a stance of fortitude—a stiff upper lip and all that—enduring each difficulty until things eventually calm. Frankly, there’s nothing wrong with either performance, but the addition of more comedic dialog is profound improvement on the script.
The person I enjoyed on screen in the previous Death at a Funeral was Alan Tudyk, a more comedic American actor. Luke Wilson makes for a believable prick as Derek, and Tracy Morgan has played the fool so long he makes the role of Norman much more memorable than the original actor. I suppose the opposite could be argued by someone more affiliated with British cinema, but I feel the comedy allows the remake of Death at a Funeral to be more vibrant and memorable.
Strangely enough, there is one cast member, Peter Dinklage, who retains his role in both movies as the jilted lover of the deceased. This allowed me to focus on more cultural differences in discussion about this relationship. Word choice is something that I had not believed to make such an impact to the boldness of the film. In a scene between Rock and Lawrence, the comedy hinges on the phrase “bromantically involved” and it just breeds laughter.
Neil LaBute, the director, also leaves great change on the canvas of Death at a Funeral. The camera brings out the scenes as much more crisp and colorful. To be honest, the previous Death at a Funeral is strangely muted. I do not approve of taking this as a negative comparison on Frank Oz, the director of the first film and one half of the muppeteering duo with Jim Henson, but the remake is much more entertaining.
This remake makes an attempt to reach an apex of comedy from the script of a recently released film, and it works.
I understand that this movie should not receive any slack on merit of its lack-of-originality, but this movie is truly funny. Sure, there are a few flaws and a bit of it hits slightly over the top, but it should be given a chance to be enjoyed without reservations. I am sure there is no such need for any decorum at this funeral.