Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Death at a Funeral

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! Well, I guess if you're gonna have a death, why not have it at a funeral?

Death at a Funeral – 3 out of 5

I saw the British original Death at a Funeral around the time it came out in 2007.  I was surprised when I saw it was remade in America in 2010.  American remakes of British features are not uncommon but to see one only a few years after the original is released seemed a tad surprising—and Death at a Funeral wasn’t even the first time it was remade as it turns out.  In 2009 a Hindi adaptation of the movie was made.  I found the 2007 film to be really fun but never watched this American version.  I put it on my Watch List but never really took the dive and checked it out.  Recently, I watched it and found it a fun film but one that has all the same problems of the original…including the fact it is very much a product of its time.

That's the appropriate face to make when you see how it expensive it is to have a funeral.

After his father passes away, Aaron Barnes (Chris Rock) takes the responsibility to set up the funeral.  The service quickly becomes filled with family and friends and it isn’t long before the drama starts.  You have his brother Ryan (Martin Lawrence) throwing his success in his face, his cousin Elaine (Zoe Saldana) is trying to control her boyfriend Oscar (James Marsden) as he accidentally took an hallucinogen and they already have to deal with the fact her father (Ron Glass) doesn’t approve of their relationship and is actively trying to break it up and get her back with her ex; Derek (Luke Wilson).  Matters are made worse when an unexpected party shows up to the ceremony, a man named Frank Lovett (Peter Dinklage) and someone who claims to have some important information about Aaron’s father and immediately proceeds to blackmail Aaron in order to keep this knowledge a secret.

I guess if you go to a funeral tripping it sorta eases the experience.

For the most part, this remake is pretty much the same as the original but with some small changes.  One noticeable thing remained the same and that is Peter Dinklage reprise the same role he had in the original film.  Overall, however, the central core and spirit of the dark comedy is there and, for the most part, it is a very entertaining feature that is very amusing.  There is, however, one thing about it that I didn’t enjoy and it is an element that I really wasn’t consciously aware of when I viewed the original film.  That element is an underlying homophobia to a particular element of the story.  Just a heads up, I’m getting into Spoilers Territory here and if you are bothered by having a key plot point ruined of a story that is already almost a decade old (or over a decade if you count the original) then run away now.

It's amazing how this property can be both progressive with its representation and inclusion
and completely backwards at the same time.

Are you still here?  Good.  So, in the film Peter Dinklage’s character turns out to be a lover of Aaron’s father.  The Barnes family is completely unaware of their father’s sexual identification and it turns their world upside down.  This can be understandable but the presentation of this shock comes in a very homophobic way and they speak of homosexuality like it is somehow a character malfunction.  The characters who find out spit out the word “gay” like it is curdled milk in their mouths but the homophobia doesn’t stop there.  The character of Frank turns out to be a bit of a shithead as he then decides to blackmail Aaron for several thousand dollars because he was left out of the will.  So, not only is the film speaking of homosexuality like it is totes gross but they present an openly gay character as a criminal and a conniving douche bag.  When I watched the original, I wasn’t fully aware of how this presented homosexuals and how absolutely backwards it is but seeing this in 2019 it just feels wrong.  Watching this now, this portrayal feels very antiquated despite what was probably believed to be progressive at the time as they have the father be revealed to be gay and sidestep a trope of a disgruntled female lover wanting her piece of the pie.  Viewing this movie now, it would have been much more interesting to see a less criminal approach to this topic and it would have resulted in more intrigue if the family came to terms with an aspect of their father they never knew rather than see this as a way to stop a person from blackmailing them and acting like being gay is disgusting.

Another disgusting element:  Martin Lawrence's character trying to get with a
woman who just turned 18.

So, that part is really uncomfortable and disappointing but the film isn’t a complete waste of time.  There is a lot of fun stuff in the film and the comedy is very solid.  Pretty much any scene with Danny Glover, who plays an elderly relative, is hilarious and every scene where Elaine is trying to control her trippin’ boyfriend is hysterical.  Overall, the humor in this film is great and does a tremendous job of riding the line of inappropriate and just how dark to take the jokes as it is a comedy that takes place at a funeral.

Yep, he's too old for this shit...and even points that out in the film!

You really can't go too wrong when you have Tracy Morgan
Probably the best aspect of this film is the cast.  Chris Rock terrifically leads the entire ensemble and does so with the right balance of humor for the situation—whether it calls for more wacky moments and more straight-laced times.  This film is just loaded with terrific talent and they are all doing amazing.  Supporting Rock you have Regina Hall, Martin Lawrence (who has some just awesome scenes with Rock), Tracy Morgan, Danny Glover, Peter Dinklage, Zoe Saldana, Luke Wilson and Kevin Hart—to name a few.  Everyone is super funny and entertaining but there is one element of the cast that I felt was lacking.  Keith David plays the reverend overseeing the funeral and he simply isn’t given enough screen time.  David is a powerhouse of an actor and probably one of the best character actors in all of existence and to limit him to just a few scenes feels criminal.

Keith David is a gift to the world and we all must recognize that fact!

Death at a Funeral definitely has some issues that feel cringe-worthy when it handles the homosexual elements and that alone makes it very uncomfortable to watch at times.  However, I won’t deny that the film has its winning moments as well as it does have some great humor and a fantastic cast.  Overall, it is basically the same thing as the original film…drawbacks and all.  I wonder if the Hindi one has the same problems…and if Peter Dinklage was in that one too.

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