Death at a Funeral

Distributed by: Screen Gems

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            As crass and crude as he can be, I love Chris Rock - mostly his stand-up routines, but on occasion, I have enjoyed some of his movies.  So, when I saw previews to Death at a Funeral and found them to be extremely funny, I couldnít wait to see the film.  However, the price of a theater ticket being what it is lately, I decided to wait for it to come out on DVD.  Once it did, I pounced on it.

            Death at a Funeral is the 2009 remake of a 2007 British film of the same name.  Chris Rock is Aaron Barnes, the oldest son whose father has recently passed away.  His mother has decided to have the funeral at home, inviting family members from all over the states for the event.  As the oldest son, Aaron is the most responsible, but is often overlooked thanks to the antics of his younger brother, Ryan (Martin Lawrence), a successful writer, playboy and irresponsible spender.

            As the family begins to arrive at his home, Aaron begins to have his doubts as to how low-key this funeral will be.  His uncle, Duncan Barnes (Ron Glass) is a formidable person who dislikes the man his daughter is dating.  In an effort to undermine Elaineís (Zoe Saldana) relationship with Oscar (James Marsden), he invites an old boyfriend (Luke Wilson).  Meanwhile, Oscar is so terrified of her father that Elaine hands him what she believes is one of her brotherís (Columbus Short) Valiums, only to discover that her chemist brother has been cooking up hallucinogenics for his friends and placing them in Valium bottles.

            Things get really bad when a little person named Frank (Peter Dinklage, who incidentally played the same role in the original film) shows up and explains his relationship with the deceased to Aaron.  Apparently, Aaronís father had been sleeping around, enjoying some rather kinky sex with Frank.  The proof is in the photos.  Frank is expecting to receive some inheritance money, despite the fact that he is never mentioned in the will.  Aaron and Ryan devise a plan to hide all of this from their mother (Loretta Devine) and when their befuddling cousin Norman (Tracy Morgan) gets involved, the whole plan goes awry. 

            There were some truly funny moments in this film, mostly containing the antics of Oscar as he copes with his hallucinogenic high, believing that someone in the casket is moving and he must save them, wrapping toilet paper around his head, climbing the roof naked, and the like.  Danny Glover provides some laughs as well as cranky Uncle Russell.  Unfortunately, but for these characters, I found that the movie was pretty much a bomb.  Chris Rock wasnít as funny as I had remembered him to be in other movies.  Martin Lawrence isnít my favorite comedian, but even he seemed to lose some of his comedic shine in this film.  And Tracy Morgan - he was just downright annoying throughout the entire film.

            It seemed to me that, with so much comedic talent starring in the movie and from the previews I had seen, Death at a Funeral should have been much funnier than it actually turned out to be.  Instead, I found myself awaiting each scene containing James Marsden who has starred in a comedy or two, but has never really been a comedian.  Other than his scenes, I found myself praying for an ending.  So sad that a film which possessed such promise could fizzle out like this.  Do yourself a favor and forget renting this film. 


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