Death at a Funeral

MGM/Sidney Kimmel Entertainment

The Bigger Picture:  Despite the bummer-sounding title, this British flick isn’t some Bergman-esque bleakfest. (God bless Ingmar!) Instead, this broad farce blows the coffin lid off dignified send-offs, thanks to Dean Craig’s screwball script and the deft direction by Frank Oz, who previously helmed Bowfinger, In & Out and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Oz also subjected us to that Stepford Wives remake, but happily, Death becomes him and joins his list of more winning comedies.   

Struggling writer Daniel (Matthew Macfadyen) just wants to give his late father a nice send-off at their country estate. But there’s no rest for the weary—or the dead. First, undertakers deliver the wrong body, and then eccentric guests arrive with their respective issues and neuroses.

Daniel’s famous novelist brother, Robert (Rupert Graves), fuels his sibling’s feelings of inadequacy. Hypochondriac friend Howard (Andy Nyman) freaks about a skin condition. Cousin Martha (Daisy Donovan) and her fiancé, Simon (Alan Tudyk), try to make a good impression on the family, but Simon accidentally ingests designer drugs and goes balls-out bonkers (literally), ending up in the buff on the roof. Woops.

Then there’s the small stranger, Peter (Peter Dinklage), with the big secret and shocking photos. When Peter demands hush money, the brothers concoct a plan to bury the scandal along with their dad’s body. Several characters and subplots remain underdeveloped and can’t quite sustain the comic momentum for 90 minutes. As a result, certain bits (including Tudyk’s delirium) feel dragged out. But Craig and Oz keep the gags coming and steadily build the craziness to an outrageous, satisfying third act.

The mostly Brit ensemble is a delight, notably Macfadyen, whose likeable, long-suffering everyman provides a solid center for the swirling s--t storm.

The 180—a Second Opinion:  With countless shots of Tudyk’s naked tush, a detour into bathroom humor (scat splatter—eww!) and general irreverence, this far-out funeral farce is definitely not for stiffs.

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