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"Death at a Funeral"

Directed by Frank Oz.
Written by Dean Craig.
Starring Matthew Macfayden, Keeley Hawes, Andy Nyman and Peter Dinklage.
Release Year:  2007
Review Date:  8/31/07


Thanks to a funny trailer, I was able to convince both my buddy Yac and myself into seeing the new British import "Death at a Funeral", a mildly amusing caper that follows one disjointed family's wild day of mourning the dead while dealing with their own funny little issues.

The film starts s l o w l y, but then picks up bit by bit until we get to the heart of it: our man Daniel (Matthew Macfayden, droll as ever) is in charge of funeral arrangements for his recently-deceased father, and when we meet him, he's just been presented the wrong dead guy for the funeral set to take place in the afternoon.  After the right body is brought back by the funeral home director, we get to meet not only Daniel's wife Jane (Keeley Hawes), but also Daniel's much-more-successful brother Robert (Rupert Graves), in from New York City as a famous writer; we also meet family friend Howard (Andy Nyman), Dan's cousin Martha (Daisy Donovan), Martha's boyfriend Simon (Alan Tudyk), Dan's grieving mother (Jane Asher), and a small man who really wants to talk with Dan about a past...issue.  His name is Peter (Peter Dinklage, from "The Station Agent").

There's a lot going on, some of it funny, some, well, not as funny.  Again, the film's first half just isn't as good as its second half, where the laughs really do pick up, especially when it appears we really do get a death at the funeral.  As our main man, Macfayden is a tough lead to follow around; he's a blank page, which is sometimes a good thing, but as the classic "vanilla" offering, he himself doesn't get many good laughs until later, which produces many yawns until the other characters arrive at the house.  British comedies almost always win with subtleties for me, and in "Death at a Funeral", the comedy seems a little bit forced than normal.  The staging of physical humor is pretty good later on, but again, it just doesn't get going until you have formed a slightly negative opinion of the film.

That being said, "Death at a Funeral" is well themed as summer comedy; it's light, care-free, and flows easily out of the mind after a long day at work.  None of it is particularly memorable or laugh-out-loud funny, but that's okay--you weren't expecting anything that good anyway, right?

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09