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Movie Review

Death at a Funeral also known as “At a Funeral,” “Sterben für Anfänger”

MPAA Rating: R for drug content and language.

Reviewed by: Daniel Thompson
CONTRIBUTOR

Very Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Comedy
Length:
1 hr. 30 min.
Year of Release:
2010
USA Release:
April 16, 2010 (wide—2,400+ theaters)
DVD: August 10, 2010
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Relevant Issues
Copyright, Screen Gems

Funerals in the Bible

Death

Final judgment

GAY—What’s wrong with being gay? Answer
Homosexual behavior versus the Bible: Are people born gay? Does homosexuality harm anyone? Is it anyone’s business? Are homosexual and heterosexual relationships equally valid?

Read stories about those who have struggled with homosexuality

Featuring: Zoe Saldana (Elaine), Keith David, James Marsden (Oscar), Luke Wilson (Derek), Martin Lawrence (Ryan), Chris Rock (Aaron), Columbus Short (Jeff), Peter Dinklage (Frank), Danny Glover (Uncle Russell), Tracy Morgan (Norman), Regina Hall (Michelle), more »
Director: Neil LaBute
Producer: Screen Gems, Sidney Kimmel Entertainment, Dean Craig, Glenn S. Gainor, William Horberg, Trae Ireland, Josh Kesselman, Sidney Kimmel, Laurence Malkin, Chris Rock, Share Stallings, Nicolas Stern, Jim Tauber
Distributor: Screen Gems

“This is one sad family.”

remake of the British film “Death At A Funeral” (2006)

Film remakes are becoming more and more popular these days. Whether it’s horror, comedy, or drama, someone out there either wants to make money off of someone else’s idea or they believe it’s a good enough story to tell again. These days remakes are usually remade from either a foreign film or a film that was made decades ago (i.e. “Nightmare on Elm Street” coming out later this month). For these reasons I was surprised when I heard there was a remake coming out of “Death at a Funeral,” the 2007 British dark-comedy where everything that could go wrong does during a family funeral. While the 2007 version is British, it had an American director and some American actors. Furthermore, it came out less than three years ago which wouldn’t make it ripe for a remake. Nevertheless, they have remade it and it’s an almost identical film with a different cast but, oddly enough, the same writer (Dean Craig). Similar in almost every way, the new “Death at a Funeral” offers the same awkward laughs as the original, but also the same content.

Aaron (played by Chris Rock) is a married man whose father has just passed away. Per his father’s request the funeral will be at their home with all the family attending. That family includes but isn’t limited to: Aaron’s younger more successful brother Ryan (Martin Lawrence), crotchety old Uncle Russell (Danny Glover), cousins Jeff and Elaine (Columbus Short and Zoe Saldana), as well as Elaine’s boyfriend Oscar (James Marsden). From this point forward nothing and I mean nothing goes right. They initially bring the wrong body to the home. Aaron’s mother is a mess, his brother shows up and doesn’t help the matter, and Uncle Russell is late to the funeral. A man arrives at the funeral claiming to have had a ‘secret’ relationship with Aaron’s father. To make matters worse, Oscar takes some medicine to calm his nerves. He thinks it’s Valum, but it’s actually an illegal hallucinogenic made by Elaine’s brother Jeff.

Within all of these scenarios lies a great deal of humor. Add the fact that it all takes place at a funeral, and you have the very definition of a dark-comedy. The problem is, from a filmmaking standpoint, it all feels too familiar, and that’s because it is. Having seen the original, this one plays out in identical fashion. The movie has a great cast with the likes of Rock, Lawrence, and Tracy Morgan. All of their performances are on par with their British counterparts save for James Marsden as Oscar, who earns far more laughs as the drugged boyfriend than Alan Tudyk does in the original. Actor Peter Dinklage even reprises his role from the original film and gives the same performance.

Inappropriate content is the only area where the two films differ. Both films are rated R, and while the British version had plenty of inappropriate material, the American version ups the ante. The strong language in the original is made even stronger in this update. Also, sexual dialogue appears a lot more frequently in this current version. As in the original, there is an extended scene involving Oscar naked on the roof of the house. Several shots of his bare backside are seen, and while none of this is in a sexual manner, it is still there and fairly graphic. One of the plot lines involves heavy homosexual content, and the film also has a fair amount of potty humor in it. All of this adds up to a movie that earns its R-rating.

“Death at a Funeral” does try to squeeze in a message of the importance of a loving family, but it’s clear that’s not the point of the film. While the original was very dark, it at least felt original and wasn’t quite as gratuitous in its delivery. Instead of original and restrained, we get a graphic retread, and that’s not much of a trade. “Death at a Funeral” does little to distinguish itself, even among remakes.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Extreme / Sex/Nudity: Heavy

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


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Negative—This movie is not appropriate and I am ashamed that I call myself a Christian and watched it. So many “F” words and they took the Lord’s name in vain too many times and at one point it was mentioned twice with the “F” word in between. Shame on me for not walking out. Laugh at something else. It’s not worth the guilt.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—JC, age 39 (USA)
Negative—After seeing the original (which was equally as offensive as this one), I was truly disappointed. Not only am I disappointed at the content, but at the fact that they remade a film less than four years after the original came out. And sometimes, remakes don’t do a film justice. It copied the original “Death at a Funeral” scene-by-scene, with some minor adjustments. Sure, there were some funny moments, but the original is a lot funnier than this one. I would actually skip both, because of the offensive content.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Shannon H., age 29 (USA)