DVD Review by Kam Williams
Headline: DVD Features Blackface Remake of Brit Farce
Death at a Funeral is a remake of a recent British flick which was just released in 2007. This version features a predominantly African-American cast, including a trio of A-list comedians in Chris Rock, Tracy Morgan and Martin Lawrence, along with a bevy of accomplished thespians like Keith David, Zoe Saldana, Danny Glover and Loretta Devine.
Unfortunately, while all of the above must’ve looked great on the drawing board, this blackface variation on the theme adds up to far less than the sum of its parts. Here’s why. Rather than overhaul the screenplay to appeal to an African-American sense of humor, director Neil LaBute opted to recycle one designed to tickle British fancies. Consequently, Messrs. Rock, Morgan and Lawrence seem almost shackled sticking to a script which allowed them little room to improvise.
The story revolves around a very eventful day in the lives of an extended family gathering to mourn the passing of its beloved patriarch (Frank Minor). Edward was survived by his wife, Cynthia (Devine), siblings, Russell (Danny Glover) and Duncan (Ron Glass), and their assorted offspring.
The picture’s everything but the kitchen sink plotline wastes little time to thicken, beginning with the arrival of a gay dwarf (Peter Dinklage) who demands a share of the inheritance as the deceased’s ex-lover. Since the grieving widow had no idea her hubby was on the down-low, her protective sons (Rock and Martin) agree to try to hide the evidence from their mom. This, of course, proves easier said than done.
Then there’s niece Elaine’s (Saldana) jittery boyfriend Oscar (James Marsden) who’s accidentally slipped several tabs of LSD from a vial marked “Valium,” a running joke which is repeated with a couple of other guests. Everything comes to a head when you’ll never guess who (actually, yes you will) dies unexpectedly and is hidden in the coffin in the 69 position with his late lover’s corpse.
What will creatively-bankrupt
Fair (1 star)
Rated R for pervasive profanity, graphic nudity and drug use.
Running time: 92 Minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: Deleted scenes, gag reel, feature-length commentary by the director and Chris Rock, cast interviews, plus a couple of featurettes.