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From the DVD Shelf: Josh reviews the original Death at a Funeral (2007)

April 23rd, 2010
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I’ve been wanting to see Death at a Funeral ever since it was first released (back in 2007), so it’s a funny coincidence that it arrived in my home (via Netflix) the same week that the American remake (featuring a predominantly African-American cast) opened in theatres.

The remake has gotten some decent reviews, but trust me, friends — after watching the phenomenal original version you’ll have absolutely no interest in any other take on this material.

Directed by the great Frank Oz (the voice of Miss Piggy & Yoda and the director of films including Little Shop of Horrors, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, In & Out, and Bowfinger), Death at a Funeral features a mostly British cast.  Matthew Macfadyen (MI5, Pride & Prejudice, Frost/Nixon) plays Daniel, who is attempting to arrange the funeral for his father.  Friends and family are gathering for what is supposed to be a quiet, dignified funeral service at Daniel’s parents’ home.  Of course, you can be assured that an escalating series of lunacy quickly unfolds.  Death at a Funeral is a classic farce, and there’s great joy in watching the filmmakers carefully set up all of the dominoes, in the first 30-45 minutes of the film, that they will spend the rest of the movie knocking over to hilarious effect.

This film is a RIOT.  Mr. Macfadyen is great as the straight man trying desperately to hold things together.  He’s surrounded by a terrific ensemble, including Peter Dinklage (The Station Agent) as an old friend of Daniel’s father with a big secret; Andy Nymen & Ewam Bremner as two of Daniel’s fairly hapless friends; Keeley Hawes as Daniel’s wife Jane (and, seeing as she played Zoe Reynolds in MI5, it’s great fun seeing her paired again with Mr. Macfadyen); Rupert Graves as Daniel’s more-successful writer brother Robert; and many more talented actors & comedians.  But the film belongs to Alan Tudyk (Wash from Firefly) who plays Simon, the nervous fiancee of Martha (Daisy Donovan), Daniel’s cousin.  At the start of the film, Daisy gives Simon what she thinks is a Valium to calm him down.  Of course, the pill isn’t a Valium at all, but a much, er, stronger concoction.  Now, that might sound like a hackneyed comedy set-up, and maybe it is.  But you’re really not prepared for the insanity that Mr. Tudyk unleashes in the film once the drugs that Simon has taken take effect.  This is  one of the great comedic performances of all time, and one of the primary reasons that I’m recommending this film so strongly.

I don’t really understand why Hollywood has chosen to remake an English-language film that was released in the U.S. only three years ago.  And, you know, I’m just not going to waste any brain-power thinking about it.  Just trust me when I say that you should ignore the remake and go seek out the original version.  Remember my motto: when there’s gold out there, silver sucks.

And Death at a Funeral is comedic gold.

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