Death At A Funeral is one of those uninspiring ensemble comedies that has just enough star power to both earn a profitable shelf-life and make you seriously question the creative drive behind more than a few prominent actors that grace its screen.
Chris Rock is a minor entertainment miracle. Never before in the history of showbiz has one man been so damn funny on stage and so damn unfunny on screen. He’s like a cosmic duality of personalities with a switch on his back that gets flipped to ‘burn my eyes out’ whenever he hears the word ‘action!’.
Rock, Martin Lawrence, and Tracy Morgan cancel each other out in Death At A Funeral like having too many cooks in one kitchen. Morgan at the very least has a surefire angle to get a laugh or two—he’s crazy. Lawrence and Rock, however, should seriously stick to life on the stage.
The pair star as two brothers, Aaron and Ryan, tasked with presiding over their father’s funeral. Rounding out their dysfunctional-but-loving family are, most notably, cousins Norman (Morgan), Jeff (Columbus Short), Elaine (Zoe Saldana), and Uncle Russell (Danny Glover).
Precisely before Aaron and Ryan can give their dad an appropriate sendoff, a pasty midget with an attitude (Peter Dinklage) crashes the party claiming to be their father’s gay lover, with photographic evidence to back it up his attempt to extort 30 grand from the family. It should be noted here that director Neil Labute is actually sticking to the original British version’s plot quite faithfully.
Funniest is Glover, who is perfection as a cranky old bastard with an affinity for beating things with his cane (how ever did he prepare for the role, follow himself around for a week?). Also great is James Marsden as Elaine’s boyfriend Oscar, the not-quite-token white dude (Luke Wilson also makes a meaningless appearance) who tweaks balls after taking a hallucinogen he thinks is Valium to calm his nerves before meeting Elaine’s father.
It’s still unclear whether Rock thinks he’s obligated to try to be dramatic and broadly-appealing for the sake of his own persona, or he just continually surrounds himself with people who (mistakenly) believe that we want to see anything other than Chris Rock: comedian.
Death At A Funeral is somewhat entertaining, but mostly lethargic, as if it followed the original too closely without thinking up its own gags that could be better suited for its own cast.