2010 – 92mn – 15

Directed by Neil LaBute. Starring Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, Peter Dinklage, Zoe Saldana, Danny Glover, Tracy Morgan, James Marsden, Luke Wilson.

Review by Walter Nichols

THIS week’s Death At A Funeral is a lazy US remake of the already so-so 2007 British original. Aaron (Chris Rock)’s father has just died. The day of the funeral reunites the whole family, including Aaron’s brother, famous author Ryan (Martin Lawrence); grumpy senile uncle Russell (Danny Glover); and beautiful cousin Elaine (Zoe Saldana), who’s bringing along her new fianc� (James Marsden). The funeral soon turns into a debacle, with the help of a misplaced body, some hallucinogenic Valium, a blackmailing stranger, and a lot of soon-to-be-exposed family secrets…

The film is a scene-for-scene rehash of the original, with some broad sex jokes, more cursing, and a handful of tired pop culture references thrown in to substitute for freshness. It doesn’t make for a better movie; indeed, it actually makes things much worse. Where Frank Oz’s 2007 film worked because of the tension between surface restraint and deep-set dysfunction in a very English family, Neil LaBute’s US version just makes for an extended episode of a Tyler Perry sitcom – loud, brash, and ponderous. All of the blame rests with the director. At his best, Neil LaBute is still one of the most overrated filmmakers working today. At his worst, he directs as he does here: as if he couldn’t care less. The film is slack, poorly shot, poorly paced, and poorly acted. It has no depth and doesn’t strive for any. It’s made with less diligence and intelligence than a bad soap opera.

A couple of the supporting actors (James Marsden, Danny Glover, and Columbus Short) make good turns, and Marsden is the only slight improvement on the original. Everyone else phones it in. A muted Chris Rock is no Chris Rock at all, and without room to let his personality out, the comedian has less presence than the furniture. As for the other lead, Martin Lawrence, the Bad Boys star is so arrogant, unfunny and repulsive every second he spends on the screen is a second you spend vomiting into your popcorn bucket.

You might squeeze a couple of laughs out of it if you haven’t seen the original – but if that’s the case, do yourself a favor, and just rent the original. It’s cheaper, and it’s much, much better.

Star rating: 1 out of 5 stars