If you are only happy watching deeply sophisticated and upmarket comedy, “Death at a Funeral” is not for you. I admire clever movies but I have a populist heart. I have rarely laughed so much at a movie and was rocked by great gasps, hoots and huge tears of laughter. Waves of guffaws and belly laughs ran through the Stratford Picture House. Everyone enjoyed it.
The guy cleaning the cinema was overwhelmed by giggles, just talking about it afterwards and he and his dreadlocks are very cool. This is a whole new side of him. Honestly, he was shaking with mirth.
It kept me in stitches from start to finish. It’s a remake, from the 2007 Frank Oz movie of the same name, which I liked but not nearly as much as I like this. Full of great American comic actors, it’s about a black family funeral with a few surprises. Even the assorted sub plots work far better here than they did in the original.
Chris Rock is Aaron, the son of the deceased, trying to do the right thing by everyone from his widowed mother – Loretta Devine shines here as Cynthia – to his famous writer brother Ryan, played by a wonderful Martin Lawrence. Regina Hall plays Michelle, Aaron’s wife. She is also very funny. I really like Chris Rock and his growing irritation at everyone thinking his brother should be doing the eulogy feels very real. Rock’s film career has been uneven, but he is hilarious here.
Everyone has great lines, in this glorious Dean Craig script crisply directed by Neil LaBute. Peter Dinklage reprises his turn from the original, as a small surprise guest at the funeral who steals almost all of the scenes he is in.
But the whole picture belongs to Danny Glover as Uncle Russell. He hams it up, playing the grouch for all its worth and reminding you of some of his funnier scenes in the “Lethal Weapon” series. I can’t give you more detail on this, because I would spoil it for you. He has a lot of fun taking off many of his straight man scenes from other movies.
Ron Glass as Duncan, brother of the deceased, Zoe Saldana as Elaine (niece) and Luke Wilson as Derek all stand out, but James Marsden’s Oscar, who accidentally takes a hallucinogenic drug, is just gut-wrenchingly wild. There’s a nice turn by Regine Nehy as Martina, too.
Columbus Short as Jeff, Kevin Hart as Brian and Tracy Morgan as Norman are just unspeakably comic with Morgan providing one of the most childishly hilarious moments I have ever seen in a film. I would have been grossed out, but I fell out of my seat with laughter and had to scramble up to catch the next scene.
You’d have to be a pretentious twit not to love this. It’s a warm and very funny ensemble piece, just oozing with star turns, sly references to popular culture and capturing the tension of families and funerals. Now I know what a fun 90 minutes I had, I may have to see it again.