Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Film Review | Death At A Funeral (2007)

Death At A Funeral has all the set-up for a tight and entertaining farcical British comedy. It's a shame then that, whilst certainly enjoyable, it never fully realises that potential.

The film gets plenty of things right. The performances from the cast are on the whole solid, if not particularly memorable; only Kris Marshall stands out as particularly weak playing yet again the same character as he has been since he first came to public attention in TV sitcom My Family. There's also plenty of classic farce scenarios played out with the backdrop of a funeral adding a pleasing blackly comic element.

It seems surprising then that one of the key criticisms of the film is that it doesn't quite take things far enough. Time and again the film sets itself up for a perfect skin-crawling farcical scenario, then holds back from going all out in the comedy stakes. It's almost as though director Frank Oz wants his comedy to be edgy, but not push the envelope of edginess. Playing it safe in terms of tastefulness when you've set your comedy film at a funeral feels entirely perverse, only serving to place your film much closer to the middle of the road. Things pick up somewhat during the final act, but it's a little too late in the day to make a real difference.

Dean Craig's script also unfortunately makes some pretty basic mistakes in terms of how it exploits both characters and situations for humour. Craig erroneously believes that nudity, defecation, people on drugs, and English people with middle class accents swearing are all funny. Whilst each of these elements get an initial chortle, unless you develop the jokes and do something with them, other than just showing them to the audience again and again, they soon become quite tired.

All in all, Death At A Funeral comes across more like an extended episode of a sitcom than a feature film. It's enjoyable enough with the cast being its strongest feature, but never does anything original or daring enough to truly stand out. Worth a watch, but unlikely to stick in your mind much past the credits.


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