'Death at a Funeral' [Blu-ray]
(Matthew MacFadyen, Andy Nyman, Ewen Bremner, et al / Blu ray / R / (2007) 2011 / MGM)
Overview: As the mourners and guests at a British country manor struggle valiantly to "keep a stiff upper lip," a dignified ceremony devolves into a hilarious, no-holds-barred debacle of misplaced cadavers, indecent exposure, and shocking family secrets. Packed with extras including audio commentaries and an uproarious gag reel, Death at a Funeral blows the lid off the proverbial coffin as "the film's delicious comic flourishes... sight gags, slapstick, flawless timing... are served up by an outstanding cast" (O, The Oprah Magazine).
Blu ray Verdict: This is the sort of drawing room comedy that the English do properly. The director, Frank Oz was born in England and can do very good comedic work, so why is this film flaccid and slightly off mark?
The premise is promising; an assortment of serious, well meaning, middle-class characters assemble at what appears to be a gracious "country home" for a funeral.
What life event is more sacrosanct than a funeral? The one event where proper manners and appropriate expressions of sympathy must accompany deep displays of loss and despair. This is even more so at a middle-class funeral in England where emotional restraint is the national way. Unlike the US where anything goes and self expression of even the most base emotions is considered healthy......this is England where one is asked to "stay strong and carry on".
And so, this movie is about an English funeral where absolutely everything that can go wrong, goes wrong. Really, really wrong. In so many, many ways. And yes, this is very funny indeed!
However, something is amiss. The cast is excellent but not given the cinematic tools to be truly hilarious.
Daniel (played by an oddly swollen and pasty be-still-my-heart, Matthew Macfadyen), the dutiful, caring and overshadowed second son who, along with his wife Jane (Keeley Hawes), lives in this stately home with his parents. It is his father who has died and it is Daniel's responsibility to organize and pay for the funeral and deliver the eulogy. Daniel and Jane are the dramatic foils who attempt to make sense out of the mayhem that quickly ensues.
Daniel's mother, the grieving widow, is played by Jane Asher (early girlfriend of Paul McCartney and sister of Peter Asher). She is quite glamorous, perfectly coiffed and groomed and although she is wearing black (Chanel?) its a bit difficult to truly worry about her. She will get on with it, one suspects.
Why oh why has this mommy dearest stuck Daniel with the bill for her husband's funeral? As if that's not enough, her obviously favored son, Robert (played by Rupert Graves), a fabulously successful author living in New York, also feels no responsibility to contribute "to the cause". Robert has spent all his money to purchase first class plane tickets in order to come to the funeral.
If Daniel has to pay for the funeral all by himself he and Jane will not have enough money to buy a flat and move out of mommy's house. And Daniel has to deliver the eulogy even though he is constantly reminded that his brother, the famous writer, is so much better at words!
If the plot so far sounds a bit thin....you are right. It's lighter than air. The comedic highlights of the movie come from the physical comedy provided by Simon (Alan Tudyk) the insecure boyfriend and secret fiance of cousin Martha. Simon accidently ingests a hallucinogenic pill, instead of Valium, on the way to the funeral and it is his behavior that starts the unfortunate chain of events. Alan Tudyk is hilarious even when stark naked. (I would like to add here that he is perhaps one of the whitest white men ever to appear naked on the screen.)
The rest of the characters fall into generic types: hapless hypochondriacs, creepy snarks, and grumpy, elderly uncles in wheelchairs.
Oh, yes. There is a mysterious American midget...... whatever is he doing at the funeral? Uh oh! [WW] This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.