Leaving the screening, the singular thought coursing through my mind was "Why would you make something like this?". More accurately, why would you remake this? 'Death at a Funeral' is based on a 2007 British comedy of the same name, reasonably well-regarded, but whose legacy will be overshadowed by this silliness. Director Neil LaBute is no stranger to pointless, inferior remakes, having perpetrated the abysmal 'Wicker Man' update a few years back.
The 'plot' centres around brothers, played by Chris Rock and Martin Lawrence (yes, they're still putting him in movies folks), attending the funeral of their father. This being low-brow stuff, everyone is unnaturally chirpy considering this terrible loss, but a mysterious stranger arrives at the funeral guarding an awkward secret the deceased patriarch had kept from his family.
I don't know if I've ever seen a comedy that tries so relentlessly hard and in vain to be funny. The attempted-gags-per-minute count is extremely high, but Dean Craig's lazy script constantly relies on wackiness, tired stereotypes and laboured lines. Every cliché in the book is thrown into the mix. Characters accidentally taking drugs with 'hilarious' consequences? Check. Fish-out-of-water 'white boy' in an all-black situation? Check. Crotchety elderly character with attitude and bowel problems? Check. Humorous capering around with a dwarf? Big fat check.
Doesn't sound very good, does it? Of course it isn't.
About an hour in, the thought crossed my mind that the only thing missing was that sub-par comedy staple, the fart joke. It never came, but soon we were treated to an excrement set-piece that seemed to last forever. It's clear by now that good taste was not high on anyone's agenda here.
All the crassness and obscenity in the world could be forgiven if 'Death at a Funeral' was actually funny or well-delivered (see 'Dumb and Dumber'). Alas, with a few exceptions, the jokes make resounding clangs and what we're left with is a whole load of hopeless mugging to fill the void.
A naturally funny actor like Chris Rock is forced to play the straight man, leaving Lawrence, '30 Rock's Tracy Morgan and the truly risible James Marsden to run wild in the most annoying manner. Zoe Saldana is used to working with James Cameron and JJ Abrams these days and she must wonder why on earth she got involved in this. Indeed, it speaks volumes about the movie that Danny Glover is one of the best things about it, and even his grandpa character rehashes Murtaugh's immortal "I'm too old for this..." line from 'Lethal Weapon'. Is nothing sacred?
In an example of gross injustice, 'Death at a Funeral' hasn't quite died a death at the box office, making a 100% profit in the US alone. But viewers over here should really demand better. Vote with your feet and avoid this lame, offensive nonsense like the plague.