Death at a Funeral
by Elaine Hegwood Bowen
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Death at a Funeral starring Tracy Morgan, Loretta Divine, Chris Rock, Ron Glass, Zoe Saldana and a host of other comedians and actors was so darn funny that it didn’t matter that it was an exact remake of the British version of a devoted father’s funeral that opens itself up to a bold surprise!
The story goes that a patriarch dies and the funeral is held at his home, where he lived with his grieving widow and oldest son and his wife. The younger son, played by Martin Lawrence, is an accomplished writer, and the oldest son, played by Chris Rock, works in finance but always had aspirations to become a writer. There’s a bit of sibling rivalry going on, but that is thrown to the wind when it is discovered that their late father was on the “down low” and had a lover who is small in size. He is also Caucasian, and the deceased man is Black, so I don’t know what was the biggest grievance, the lover’s gender, size or ethnicity.
Rock plays Aaron and Martin plays Ryan, and as the family members gather at the spacious home for the funeral, the two are on edge, because the funeral home at first delivers the wrong body. Along the way, Columbus Short, who plays the cousin of the two brothers, Jeff, and his sister, Elaine, played by Saldana, manage to allow Elaine’s boyfriend to take a Valium that’s not really a Valium. Short is a pre-med student and he’s mixed up a concoction of hallucinogens for a buddy and placed them in the Valium bottle. James Marsden who plays Oscar is so spaced out during the funeral that he ends up on the roof, naked (just like in the original version) and Elaine is hard pressed to explain his behavior to her father, who doesn’t really care for Oscar. Peter Dinklage plays Frank, the father’s undercover lover, and he has a blackmail scheme of his own to carry out. He played a similar role in the British version.
The Valium bottle plays an integral part in the movie, also, as it keeps getting misplaced and mistaken for just what it is—Valium, when it’s really something more potent.
There’s one slapstick scene after another, for what has been described as a sad, sad family, merely trying to bury their father.
The references to Amy Winehouse and R. Kelley are not to be missed, as well as the closing scene.
Death at a Funeral—with all its urban flavor—is in theaters now.
Elaine Hegwood Bowen is an editor, writer and film critic in Chicago.
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