Starring: Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, Tracy Morgan
Directed by: Neil LaBute (“Lakeview Terrace”)
Written by: Dean Craig (“Death at a Funeral,” 2007 version)
If there was even one ounce of cleverness in “Death at a Funeral,” the remake of the 2007 British comedy of the same name and penned by the same screenwriter, there might have been a reason to retell the story for a different demographic that probably missed the original when it hit theaters three years ago. What’s the point, however, when the new version practically matches its predecessor character for character, shot for shot, and line for line? What’s worse than a tiresome re-creation is one with nothing unique to say.
Replacing dry and subtle British humor with broad, overdone jokes, the modernized “Funeral” hopes to rely on its popular cast to shake things up a bit. Chris Rock (“The Longest Yard”) takes the lead as Aaron, the oldest son of the recently deceased Edward (Bob Minor), who is trying to keep his dad’s funeral from falling apart once the oddball mourners start showing up at his mother’s house to pay their respects. This includes his well-known novelist brother Ryan (Martin Lawrence), who walks in unwilling to pitch in for the funeral costs but ready to chase skirt, and other family and friends (Zoe Saldana, James Marsden, Tracy Morgan, Columbus Short, Danny Glover, Luke Wilson) who are able to disrupt the service in their own peculiar way.
Big trouble comes in a small package when a mysterious dwarf named Frank (Peter Dinklage, who reprises the exact role he had in the 2007 film), shows up to the funeral ready to reveal a secret that could cause a lot of pain on an already sorrowful day. To keep the funeral from becoming uncontrollable, the family must find a way to keep Frank quiet just long enough to survive a few prayers and a eulogy.
But with characters running around hopped up on hallucinogens, a mother complaining that she doesn’t have any grandchildren, and an irate uncle with some bowel issues, it won’t be easy for Aaron to keep everything moving smoothly. Director Neil LaBute (“Lakeview Terrace”) has the same problem as his actors seem to be reading their dialogue off a teleprompt and lazily going through the motions of a mediocre slapstick comedy.
With “Funeral” coming as close as possible to plagiarizing itself, there is one distinct difference between the two films other than the characters’ skin color. This new version is much more exhausting to sit through. Sure, funerals aren’t supposed to be much fun, but “Death at a Funeral” gives new meaning to dead on arrival.