Death at a Funeral (2007)

Death at a Funeral (2007)


Matthew McFadyen (In My Father’s Den) plays Daniel, who’s returned home for the death of his father. As the most responsible member of a chaotic and dysfunctional family, he’s busy trying to keep it all together. Things start off badly when the wrong coffin arrives at the house, get worse when his successful but reckless novelist brother tells him he’s can’t help pay for the funeral, and slide even further downhill when his cousin’s new boyfriend accidentally takes some hallucinogens. When a mysterious dwarf takes Daniel aside at the funeral to reveal a secret affair with his dead father, things really being to plummet.  

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Flicks Review

When Death at a Funeral was scheduled to screen on opening night at the New Zealand International Film Festival, there were hoots of derision coming from the more refined cinema-goers. What was a film by Frank Oz, director of the rather plain Stepford Wives remake and The Muppets Take Manhattan, doing in such a typically arthouse environment? Ticket sales proved them wrong, however, and the packed theatre was so enchanted that one could hardly hear the film over the uproarious laughter from the audience. Death at a Funeral was a hit.

On this outing, Oz has left America and traveled to his native England to create an old-fashioned British comedy that hearkens back to the days of Alec Guiness or Peter Sellers. A group of typical English stereotypes gather for a funeral in a large country home, and everything that could go wrong does. English mannerisms are exploited with much hilarity, using farce and slapstick to create a theatrical feel.

In fact, the film almost feels more suited to the theatre stage than the cinema screen and indeed benefits from such a concise setting. It’s an exercise in grouping a bunch of idiosyncratic characters and placing them in the pressure-cooker situation of a funeral. Things start to go wrong, and before long the events have spiraled out of all control. We have a fair idea of where things are going, but some great comic timing allows few jokes to fall flat.

Weaknesses are any attempts to create seriousness. Rupert Graves, as the novelist brother who jets in from New York, is weak. His smug character seems out of place and he never really fits smoothly into the madcap scenarios that play out. He’s not good as the funny man or the straight man and lets the team down.

The others are perfectly cast. Alan Tudyk plays an uptight solicitor who mistakenly takes strong hallucinogenic drugs thinking that they’re valium pills. The inevitable slapstick routine that results is very funny, mainly due to his ridiculous facial expressions.

Rather than inserting jokes into a full dramatic storyline, Death at a Funeral is crafted around the jokes. As a result it’s more consistently funny, if a little weightless. But it’s good to see a fun British comedy, and this one is a real crowd-pleaser.

The Peoples' Reviews

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BY AaronG superstar

Very enjoyable. One of those films that remind you how good British comedy is!

Intelligent, charming and excellent acting. This will become a classic.

Sure, this film has the odd funny moment, but frankly, if you've watched many sit-coms, British or American, chances are you've seen plenty of much funnier situations and have heard much funnier lines. Black Books, Flight of the Conchords, IT Crowd, Seinfeld, even Friends... all these shows have more to offer in terms of belly laughs than this movie.

In the end, it feels a bit like a movie length version of a Fawlty Towers episode, except with a plot that never really manages to be as... More elaborate or as engaging as you might expect. If you find the words Gay Dwarf to be automatically funny (He's gay! AND he's a dwarf! BWAHAHAH!), or if you think someone getting unintentionally high is pure hilarity (You should see his facial expressions! He's totally spaced out! HAHA! ...something David Schwimmer did this better in Friends, by the way), then you'll probably laugh a lot during this film. Frankly, I was surprised by how much the film relies on that well-worn "person accidentally gets high!" set-up, right down to the weak ending gag. In that and in other respects the film just lacked wit and freshness, always aiming for the obvious. In fact, not only was it not as clever as I wanted it to be, but it felt like it wasn't even as clever as *it* wanted to be. Disappointing.Hide

i went to see this my aunty & best friend & couldnt stop laughing
the whole time. Its an amzaing movie but only if you like british humour. I ABSOLUTLY LOVED IT & im diffently buying it when it comes out on dvd

Very dissapointing for a british comedy!

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The Press Reviews

  • BBC

    Someone call an undertaker: another stiff has arrived in the form of <em>Death at a Funeral</em>, a pulse-free farce that categorically proves mortality is no laughing matter. No wonder Mattthew Macfadyen looks so glum as he tries to keep a lid on the chaos that threatens to turn his father's burial into a drug-fuelled orgy. Full Review

  • Death At A Funeral was a surprise hit at the New Zealand International Film Festival earlier this year and while it's absurd, it's also a lot of fun... Full Review

  • Scientists believe that black holes can slow down the progress of time. A similar effect can be felt by viewers of this damp squib of a farce as it grinds on from one lame set-up to the next. Full Review

  • Death at a Funeral is lethal farce, combining hints of <em>The Lavender Hill Mob</em>, doses of Joe Orton and a smidgen of the Farrelly brothers' scatology in its mix. It's sillier but funnier than <em>Knocked Up</em>, the summer's other notable comedy. Full Review

  • It's interesting to note that virtually every reputable American critic adored Death at a Funeral and every decent English critic loathed it. You may draw your own conclusions from that, but it's worth bearing in mind that American humour is not exactly subtle and Wasp Americans love seeing Brits make idiots of themselves because they secretly envy them... Full Review

  • The humor manages to be simultaneously sophisticated, supremely silly and very dark. If you don't laugh at the preposterous situations a grieving family becomes entangled in - a naked mourner and a secret about the dead man that could blow the lid right off his coffin, for samplers - you may require some kind of scan to check the health of your funny bone. Full Review

  • There's no dearth of rude humor on screens right now, but Death at a Funeral stands apart because its characters - mostly reserved upper-middle-class British folk who have gathered to bury a patriarch - are determined to keep a stiff upper lip no matter what. Full Review