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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Remake a ‘Death’ sentence

    When you go to a funeral, a subdued, grieving family usually gathers to mourn the loss of the loved one. Now imagine a completely dysfunctional family and the most ridiculous set of circumstances possible, and you’re about halfway to understanding what happens in “”Death at a Funeral.”” If you’re also starting to think all of that sounds a bit overwhelming, then you understand what makes this movie hard to swallow.

    The movie itself is a remake of a British film by the same name, made in 2007, and is centered on a man’s death and all of the family it brings together. As everyone starts to arrive at the funeral, everything starts to unravel. Family secrets are revealed and a drug-induced suicide attempt is thwarted before Aaron, played by Chris Rock, pulls everything together and gives a touching eulogy about his father.

    “”Death”” was loaded with promise. The star-studded cast seems too good to flop. Seeing names like Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, Tracy Morgan and Zoe Saldana gave me confidence in this movie’s success. After all, three are veteran comedians, and Saldana has proven over the past few years just how versatile an actress she is. Unfortunately, none of these actors managed to make this movie outstandingly funny. There were some cheap laughs, mostly induced by Morgan’s moronic antics, but another actor surprisingly stole the spotlight.

    As Oscar, James Marsden was the only truly hilarious character throughout the movie and made a bad trip look good. He delivered the part of an accidental drug user flawlessly, line after line, and the movie is funny almost any time he is on screen. Marsden’s character did inadvertently have a heavy dose of acid to loosen him up, which was the only reason Oscar was funny, but it’s Hollywood after all. That’s just how they roll.

    One of the most disappointing parts of the movie was Rock’s mellow character, Aaron. For a comedian with so much skill, you’d think that Dean Craig, who wrote the script, would have given Rock more to work with. At best, his part might make you chuckle with a couple of one-liners. Then there is Saldana’s Elaine, who was much too bland and unimportant for someone of her caliber. Lawrence’s Ryan was a mix between a near pedophile and a selfish bastard who proved to be more annoying than entertaining.

    Similarly, many of the supporting characters shared that trait. Loretta Devine, who played Rock and Lawrence’s mother Cynthia, sapped all possible sympathy that a recent widower would get by being unnecessarily catty toward Rock’s wife Michelle, played by Regina Hall. Michelle also suffered from having terrible material to work with and was reduced to repeatedly asking her husband for sex in hopes of conceiving a baby and appeasing her mother-in-law, making her character obnoxious.

    Luke Wilson, who played Derek, is usually a funny guy, but managed to be the tool who doesn’t listen to what anyone is actually saying, otherwise known as “”that guy,”” and relentlessly bothered Saldana’s character to the point where she had to punch him in the face. You can’t really blame her. I would have punched him, too. While it wasn’t entirely Wilson’s fault for having such an unlikeable character, he could have done more to make the part funnier instead of just coming off like a jerk.

    The only supporting character who didn’t make me want to hurl something at the screen was Frank, the former gay lover of Rock’s father played by Peter Dinklage, who showed up only to blackmail the family. His prowess came as no surprise though, as Dinklage had plenty of time to fine-tune his character after he played Peter, who was essentially the same character, in the original “”Death at a Funeral.””

    Speaking of the original movie, the new “”Death”” does it no justice; its fatal flaw is the lack of subtlety.

    Whereas the original “”Death”” was believable in its humor because of its dry, understated British humor, the new one isn’t. Instead, the new movie has a loud and “”in your face”” style that seems out of place a funeral. An off-kilter family could be a bit excitable at a funeral, but it is unimaginable that a family could be so over the top on such a somber occasion, even considering the unusual circumstances. At the very least the director could have made sure the cast was toned it down until the end where their reactions were actually appropriate.

    “”Death at a Funeral”” is entertaining but nothing like its predecessor. The two were made for different audiences, but Americans could just as easily appreciate highbrow humor over the newarly-slapstick comedy in this remake. If the script wasn’t so weak then I’m sure the talented actors involved could have done better, but one can only do so much with bad material.

    If you’re looking for some laughs or a light movie to take a date on, “”Death at a Funeral”” is probably worth your time. But, if you go expecting more sophisticated humor, the real thing dying at this funeral will be your interest.

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