Neil LaBute’s Death at a Funeral is a damn near shot-for-shot remake of Frank Oz’s 2007 original. What I’m most curious about is whether screenwriter Dean Craig even wrote a new script for this film or if he just took his original, tossed it in the word processor and did a find and replace, changing the names and then allowing for the assembled talent to improvise when needed. This isn’t really a remake as much as it’s a copy. I’m not even sure if you would call it an adapted script or a recycling of the original. Nevertheless, I still enjoyed it and you could do far worse at the cinema.
While Oz’s British original is loved by many, I found it to be merely a satisfying comedic diversion and the three-years-later edition is no different. Telling the story of a disastrous family funeral, Aaron (Chris Rock) must hold things together as he attempts to lay his father to rest all while dealing with his baby-obsessed wife (Regina Hall), his rivalry with his brother (Martin Lawrence), a foul-mouthed uncle (Danny Glover), a slew of family friends that bring their own problems to the table and being blackmailed. He’s got trouble coming from all sides.
The juiciest of roles belong to James Marsden and Danny Glover. Marsden fills in for Alan Tudyk’s character in the original and puts his own stamp on the accidental high his character experiences and goes through for the film’s duration. Glover, serving as the grumpy, wheelchair-bound uncle gets to beat up on Tracy Morgan the whole time, and as a Morgan fan the combination is quite funny.
Reprising his role from the original, Peter Dinklage plays the source of the film’s blackmail campaign and I would swear does a step-by-step repeat performance, which I have to wonder how many times in film history has that happened? Ever? Otherwise, Zoe Saldana, Keith David, Tracy Morgan, Columbus Short and Loretta Devine are all fine. Luke Wilson didn’t particularly impress me and this is probably the tamest performance I’ve ever seen from Chris Rock, but he too fits in nicely with the ensemble.
As far as saying if you should see the original before seeing the remake I don’t think there’s much of a difference. You’d be fine seeing either with little need to see them both. I would probably say I enjoyed Kris Marshall in the original film more than Columbus Short here, and think the final shot from Oz’s feature along with the similar one of Tudyk sitting naked on the roof bests what they do in this remake, but my only guess is Glover wasn’t willing to show his naked bum, which would have ruined the symmetry.
All that’s left to say is this is a satisfying diversion. If you’ve seen the original and are up for another go ’round check it out or if you are simply interested in seeing a light-hearted feature that works give this film a go.