Death at a Funeral is based on the 2007 Frank Oz-directed film of the same title. It even uses the same Dean Craig-penned script. And besides the older version being a mainly white cast set in Britain, and the new version featuring a mainly African-American cast set in Los Angeles, there is absolutely no difference between the two (actor Peter Dinklage even plays the same character). Why remake a movie that has only been out for three years then? For one, the two films are geared towards totally different audiences, and while the 2007 version is funny, the new one is hilarious.

It’s the day of the funeral for Aaron’s (Chris Rock) father, and he’s in charge of logistics. If it’s not the wrong body in the casket he’s dealing with, it’s trying to calm his mother (Loretta Devine) down or get his wife (Regina Hall) to stop trying to have sex with him (her clock is ticking and she’s ovulating). His famous novelist brother, Ryan (Martin Lawrence), arrives from New York City but turns out to be broke and not very helpful because he’s “grieving” (which is his way of getting out of doing anything so he can hit on a young woman). Aaron is also struggling with the eulogy he plans to give because he wants to be a writer himself and needs to prove he has it in him (and everyone thinks it should be Ryan giving the eulogy since he’s the author).

As the day progresses, more colourful characters turn up, including family friends Norman (Tracy Morgan) and Derek (Luke Wilson), cousins Elaine (Zoe Saldana) and Jeff (Columbus Short), Elaine’s boyfriend Oscar (James Marsden), who has been accidentally drugged with a hallucinogen, their geriatric grumpy uncle, Russell (Danny Glover), and a small man by the name of Frank (Dinklage), who no one has ever met. Turns out Frank was the secret lover of the deceased and he has pictures to prove it. If he doesn’t get $30,000 he’ll show the evidence to everyone. A series of comedic events follow as Aaron and Ryan try to figure out what to do with Frank.

The giant ensemble cast works the laughs in this rendition much better than the original. Rock and Lawrence play off each other very well, Glover is a riot, and Morgan, who ruined Cop Out for me earlier this year, delivered some of the best moments in the film mainly because he wasn’t yelling like a moron the entire time. The stand-out however, was Marsden, who played up the drugged routine to the max. Whether he thinks the plants are singing to him or the coffin is moving, he had me in tears laughing he was so damned funny.

If you’re a fan of Oz’s film than you should probably avoid this one at all costs because you’ll just compare the two and it won’t work. If you didn’t care for the earlier one, or have never heard of it, you should  give this one a chance as it’s good entertainment that also succeeds at being an excellent comedy.

*** out of 5 stars

Rated 14A
Cast: Chris Rock, Tracy Morgan, Martin Lawrence, Zoe Saldana
Directed by:  Neil LaBute
Official Site IMDb

brian.mckechnie@citynews.rogers.com

ALSO OPENING THIS WEEK: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Square, Kick-Ass

Top image: A scene from Death at a Funeral. Courtesy Sony Pictures.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RidTIIvXRM8