Sunday, 24 February 2013

Film Review | Death At A Funeral (2010)

Remaking a film is never a straightforward business. Changing things too much can provoke a backlash from audiences, especially if the film you're remaking is much-loved. By the same token, produce a shot-for-shot remake and people simply start asking what the point is. But every so often, a remake comes along that gets it just right, with a few key examples where the remade version ends up more highly regarded than the original. And then there are films like 2010's remake of Death At A Funeral, which changes just enough to feel worthwhile whilst at the same time feeling decidedly safe, and ends up about as successful overall as the original.

Not put off by the universal trashing of his last attempt at a remake in 2006's The Wicker Man, Neil LaBute's Hollywood version of Death At A Funeral came only three years after the British-made original. LaBute's version stays largely faithful to Dean Craig's script, with only a few minor plot points changed which ultimately make very little difference to the story being told. The film therefore shares a lot of the successes and shortcomings of Frank Oz's 2007 film.

The cast here are largely as successful as that seen in the original, with LaBute assembling mostly black actors for his film. A smart move that substitutes well the parochial nature of leafy middle class England for an equally close-knit community in the United States. One or two members of the cast are noticeably inferior to their 2007 counterparts however: James Marsden tries hard, but never manages the same level of lunacy as seen in Alan Tudyk's performance; so too for Loretta Devine in the relatively minor role of grieving widow Cynthia, who can't quite match up to Jane Asher in the original. That said, there are also some superior casting decisions that redress the balance, most notably Danny Glover as the perpetually grumpy Uncle Russell. Casting Peter Dinklage once again in his role from the first film is also a smart move.

By transferring the setting to the United States LaBute does lose some of the humour derived from the prim and proper nature of the British original, and there are a handful of elements which worked before but here feel considerably less successful. But, almost as a trade off, the majority of the cast feel a lot more relaxed here. Oz's original often felt like a theatrical performance being filmed, whereas LaBute's film comes across as a lot more natural.

In the end, there's not a lot between the two versions of Death At A Funeral. LaBute's remake shares the majority of the hits and misses seen in the original due in no small part to Craig's script; there are also things that LaBute gets right that Oz got wrong, and vice versa. In the end, this is just as worth watching as the 2007 version, but if you're looking for a film which remedies the failings of the original then this is likely to disappoint.


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