Death at a Funeral (Screen Gems)

Release Date: April 16, 2010

Everybody hates him.

On the Big Board
Position Staff In Brief
109/123 David Mumpower I absolutely loved the cast, but the movie itself fundamentally disappoints.
165/190 Max Braden Rent the original instead. I don't know how a close remake loses its charms, but this did.

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Occasions for family reunions - whether weddings, funerals, holidays, road trips, or simply films with the words "road trip", "funeral" or wedding" in the title - seem to mark a major drawing point for hit comedies. So it's not a surprise that another ensemble cast has been gathered up and dispatched together as family, this time to mourn the death of a loved one, as well as quibble, heal old wounds, and engage in slapstick. The fact that the film is a remake of a 2007 English import (a minor hit on the arthouse circuit, with $8.6 million grossed out of a little over 300 screens) reminds one of the 1980s-'90s trend of remaking recent French comedies into mainstream Hollywood blockbusters (Three Men and a Baby, the Birdcage), minor hits (Jungle 2 Jungle) or total flops (anyone remember Just Visiting?).

Chris Rock, who stars and also co-wrote the script, has not really established himself as a solo leading man, with his early 2000s starring roles in Bad Company and Head of State seeing low returns, and only a $12 million gross for his most recent headlining film, I Think I Love My Wife (which itself was a remake... of an old French film). Partnering up with Martin Lawrence here is another try for Rock. Lawrence has a better handle on opening this type of comedy, having led almost back-to-back 2008 releases Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins and College Road Trip to fair if unspectacular $40 million+ grosses, after a co-starring role in the massive 2007 hit Wild Hogs. SNL veteran Tracy Morgan looks like he's building up on his film career, and this should help raise his profile some, and if successful, probably parlay into a leading role of his own.

Also interesting is the involvement of James Marsden, who continues his once unlikely seeming streak of comedy supporting roles, after growing a hit-and-miss collection in between 27 Dresses, Enchanted, and Sex Drive. Coming off some initial co-starring roles in summer blockbusters like X-Men and Superman Returns, Marsden may have found his niche as a comedy star. Loretta Devine and Columbus Short, both perennials of recent hit films with large African-American casts (they've got Stomp the Yard, This Christmas and First Sunday in between them), are also on hand.

What's most interesting is to see director Neil LaBute, purveyor of acidic dramas like the Shape of Things and In the Company of Men, tackle a commercial Hollywood comedy with a predominantly African-American cast. After the interesting but mostly ignored Lakeview Terrace (2008), it's a further step into mainstream Hollywood directing for LaBute, after a decade of staying with smaller films. (Michael Lynderey/BOP)

Vital statistics for Death at a Funeral (Screen Gems)
Main Cast Chris Rock, Tracy Morgan, Martin Lawrence
Supporting Cast Loretta Devine, Ron Glass, Danny Glover, Regina Hall, James Marsden, Zoe Saldana, Columbus Short, Kevin Hart
Director Neil LaBute
Screenwriter Chris Rock, Aeysha Carr
Distributor Screen Gems (Sony)
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture



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