Death At a Funeral (DVD)

Death At A Funeral is a strange little farce. There are some great comic highs — mostly courtesy of Tudyk as an unwitting tester of a strong hallucinogen — and some very neatly handled emotions. Somehow though, things don’t quite gel into a satisfactory whole.

The action, as the title suggests, takes place at the funeral of a respected and respectable, slightly anonymous gentleman. His status is more as the late father of brothers Daniel (Macfadyen) and Robert (Graves) and as the late husband of widow Sandra (Asher). While other members of the family have their own problems to deal with — particularly cousin Martha (Donovan) and her aforementioned hallucinating fiancé, along with cantankerous Uncle Alfie (Vaughan) — it’s Daniel and Robert with the biggest dilemma. Which is ironic as it’s come in the diminutive form of Peter Dinklage, a mystery guest who, it transpires, knew their father a little too well.

The result, in between the neatly observed familial stuff, is a whoops-there-goes-my-trousers style farce that doesn’t quite ignite where it needs to. Oz has declared that he wanted honesty, that for the cast to acknowledge that it’s all a bit of a wheeze would undermine the truth of the piece and yes, he’s got a point. However, given the choice of a farce played flat out for laughs with intermittent moments of reality, or an occasionally well-observed character study with only intermittent laughs, well, I’d plump for the former every time. As it stands, it’s neither as good nor as funny as it needs to be. The performances are decent enough, particularly Tudyk and Macfadyen, but it’s all in vain as the film falls, with a virtually audible thump, well between two stools.

EXTRAS ** Not a lot to get excited about. There are two commentary tracks — one with director Frank Oz, the other with writer Dean Craig and actors Alan Tudyk and Andy Nyman — plus a gag reel.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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