I can't remember the last time I was so overwhelmed by a film's pre-release publicity. All I've been hearing over the past few weeks is how Death at a Funeral might just be the funniest movie of all time, rivalling Four Weddings and a Funeral as the best modern comedy about life and death.
Needless to say, I was happy to take it home. As you may know, I've been craving good comedy lately. This, however, was not really what I was after. It was funny in places, but overall rather ho-hum. Evidently, it's not the British that do good comedy, it's certain British people. Not a single cast member, shall we say, from Spaced, The Office, Black Books, or Coupling appears here.
The gag is this: A family reunites for the funeral of its patriarch. In the short time leading up to the ceremony, one character winds up high on hallucinogenic drugs and wanders about naked, while the dead man's sons discover their father was gay and must pay his lover a large sum of money so he won't reveal the news to everyone.
The jokes basically revolve around that. And then someone dies. But the death comes 20 minutes before the end, which throws the whole thing out of whack, so that the ridiculous ending comes too quickly, and without purpose. Really, the jokes are few and far between, and most of them rely on juvenile humour, such as the drugged out man spitting over a balcony, or a cranky old man in a wheelchair desperately needing a shit.
There wasn't a lot to laugh at, Or what I had laughed at early in the film, became run-of-the-mill the ninth time it was paraded in front of me for laughs. Okay, I felt like shouting, naked guy is acting weird -- can we move on?
So, good for laugh, but certainly not a lasting one.
Death at a Funeral simply Was Not Funny. It had its moments, sure, and I didn't not laugh, but everything was either so contrived or cliché, that each laugh was more of a knee-jerk reaction to the sudden switch from the dullness of the rest of the movie.
Luckily, I hadn't been exposed to the marketing blitz as Nikki had, so I had no expectations at all - until I saw that Frank Oz had directed it. Had that not been revealed to me, the movie still would have sucked, but it would not have been the disappointment that it turned out to be.
I mean, how funny is the guy-accidentally-takes-acid scenario anymore? What purpose did it serve, really, apart from getting everyone out of the house to look at him as he's about to jump off the roof at exactly the right moment so that our heroes can sneak another body into an already-occupied coffin? And I'm sorry, but the body-falling-out-of-a-coffin gag has just been (ahem) done to death.
The script was terrible; the structure, all over the place. I couldn't find a clear turning point between the first and second acts, unless it's the reading of the eulogy, but that comes at roughly 31 minutes - way too far in to be an act break. The first act should have moved quicker, much quicker, so that the titular "death" at the funeral would come at midpoint, then hilarious hijinks ensue, bringing us to the finale.
Instead, the "death" turns out to be more of a concussion resulting in unconsciousness for a while, and comes much too close to the end of the film - probably, one can only guess - because the hilarious hijinks well was running dry.
I like Frank Oz, but I think he should stick to making movies he's good at, the light-hearted comedies with Steve Martin and Bill Murray, and leave the Death and Funeral business to the likes of Richard Curtis.