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MGM

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Frank Oz
Cast:
Matthew Macfadyen, Keeley Hawes, Andy Nyman, Ewen Bremner, Daisy Donovan, Alan Tudyk, Jane Asher, Kris Marshall
Writing Credits:
Dean Craig

Tagline:
From director Frank Oz comes the story of a family that puts the F U in funeral.

Synopsis:
From acclaimed director Frank Oz comes "a fast, furious and riotously funny farce" (Maxim) that'll have you dying with laughter!

As the mourners and guests at a British country manor struggle valiantly to "keep a stiff upper lip," a dignified ceremony devolves into a hilarious, no-holds-barred debacle of misplaced cadavers, indecent exposure, and shocking family secrets. Packed with extras including audio commentaries and an uproarious gag reel, Death at a Funeral blows the lid off the proverbial coffin as "the film's delicious comic flourishes ... sight gags, slapstick, flawless timing ... are served up by an outstanding cast" (O, The Oprah Magazine).

Box Office:
Budget
$9 million.
Opening Weekend
$1.282 million on 260 screens.
Domestic Gross
$8.579 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1/16X9
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Surround 2.0
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Cantonese
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
Spanish

Runtime: 91 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 2/26/2008

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Frank Oz
• Audio Commentary with Writer Dean Craig and Actors Alan Tudyk and Andy Nyman
• Gag Reel
• Previews


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Death At A Funeral (2007)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 14, 2010)

When I recently watched the 2010 version of Death at a Funeral, I went into it without the realization that it remade an earlier film. Armed with that knowledge, I decided to give the 2007 original a look – and why bother to watch a movie if I can’t churn out a review as well?

When Edward Barnes (Gareth Milne) dies, many generations of family and friends gather to mourn him. The funeral takes place at Edward’s, and his son Daniel (Matthew MacFadyen) gets the job to organize much of the ritual. That’s just one of the pressures on him, though. His wife Jane (Keeley Hawes) pressures him to buy a flat so they can move out of the family home, and he competes with his brother Robert (Rupert Graves). Daniel wants to be a novelist, but Robert enjoys a successful career in that field. Known as the writer in the family, everyone wants Robert to say the eulogy, but as the oldest, Daniel insists that he perform that task, even though this adds to his stress.

Other family issues emerge. Daniel’s cousin Martha (Daisy Donovan) plans to marry her boyfriend Simon (Alan Tudyk), and that makes him tense, as he believes her father Victor (Peter Egan) disapproves of him. To ease the pressure, Martha gives Simon a Valium she finds at her brother Troy’s (Kris Marshall) apartment. However, it turns out that the pill contained a hallucinogenic, and this prompts Simon to act in a nutty manner.

A few additional threads emerge. Family friend Howard (Andy Nyman) gets stuck watching Daniel’s cranky old Uncle Alfie (Peter Vaughan), and Howard’s pal Justin (Ewen Bremner) tries to supersede Simon and reignite his old romance with Martha. Finally, an acquaintance of Edward’s named Peter (Peter Dinklage) tries to use his relationship to bilk some money out of the family.

Semi-astute readers will note that the synopsis above copies the summary from my review of the 2010 version with only minor alterations. That’s because the two films are exceedingly similar. The remake isn’t Psycho 1998 similar – it’s not a literal shot-by-shot copy – but it’s pretty darned close to the original.

What differs? The remake contributes a lot of its own gags, and some of them improve on the original. For instance, both feature scenes in which their leads notice that the funeral home brought the wrong body. In the remake, the corpse is a different ethnicity than Edward, so the joke packs a little more punch; when we see the white body in Edward’s coffin, we don’t automatically understand that a mistake has occurred.

Many other jokes differ in the remake; while it uses nearly identical pacing and scene structure, a lot of the actual lines aren’t the same. In addition, a few minor plot differences occur, mainly those that concern the lead; his wife and mother pester him relentlessly to have kids. That thread doesn’t appear here.

Still, viewers of both will experience a definite sense of déjà vu. Having seen the remake first, that gives me an awkward perspective for the original, as it loses almost any novelty value. I just watched the 2010 version two days before I screened this one; that made it easier for me to compare the two, but it became tougher for me to get anything fresh from the 2007 film.

Despite the lack of newness, I do believe that the original works better than the remake. Much of the credit goes to the cast. Given the many similarities between the two, the actors become the most prominent difference. Sure, they each have their own directors and crew, but I don’t think anyone involved behind the remake’s camera did much to give it a unique stamp; the two provide pacing, editing and tone that seem an awful lot alike to me. Yeah, the remake tends to be a bit broader and more interested in farce, but not to an enormous degree.

So that leaves the cast as the main point of comparison, and for the most part, the 2007’s performers do better. My problem with the 2010 cast was that the comedians – Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence and Tracy Morgan – found it hard to pull off the drama, and the rest of the actors had difficulty with the comedy. Exceptions occurred, of course, and the dramatic performers pulled off the funny stuff better than the comedians delivered heart and emotion, but the film simply felt like a bad connection between the two worlds.

No such disconnect occurs in the 2007 Funeral. It provides a cast that fits the situations and characters in a more coherent, consistent manner, and it never throws us off with the awkward collision between the various skill levels of its actors. Unlike the remake, all the performers behave as though they’re in the same movie. They handle the comedy and the occasional stabs at drama fine and give the film a clarity of purpose that the remake lacks.

The only minor exception to this comes from an unlikely source: Peter Dinklage. He plays the same role in both films, and I cited him as a highlight of the remake. In the original, however, I think he fares less well. While his performance in the 2010 version boasted subtle acting and a balanced approach to the character, here he seems out of touch with his role.

What happened? I think Dinklage’s performance stood out in the remake because he was one of the few actors who a) seemed to “get” the movie, and b) offered a comedic performance that didn’t aggressively beg for laughs. In the original, though, all the others tend to underplay their roles, while he slightly overplays his character. Maybe he just needed a second shot to get the right balance, but here he comes across as a bit unfocused.

Nonetheless, I do find that the original Funeral works best. Neither gives us a consistent delight, but the 2007 edition delivers a fairly engaging black comedy about a funeral gone wrong.


The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio C/ Bonus B-

Death at a Funeral appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 and in a 1.33:1 version on this double-sided, single-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. Though it got packed into one layer, the picture looked surprisingly decent.

Though I can’t say it ever rose much above the level of “pretty okay”. Sharpness fared well, as most of the movie showed good clarity and accuracy. Wider shots tended to seem a bit tentative, a factor that became exacerbated by mild edge haloes. Nonetheless, overall definition satisfied. No issues with shimmering or jagged edges materialized, and digital artifacts remained minor. Source flaws failed to become a factor.

Colors were ordinary. Granted, the movie featured a subdued palette to match the funeral setting, but I still thought the tones took on too much of a brownish feel. The hues weren’t bad, but they seemed somewhat bland. Blacks were reasonably dark and tight, while shadows showed decent clarity; the occasional low-light shots seemed fairly smooth. At no point did the transfer excel, but it was perfectly fine for SD-DVD.

As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, it seemed relentlessly ordinary. The soundfield offered occasional snatches of stereo music – that also spread to the back speakers – and very little else from the side or rear channels. This was a decidedly chatty movie. Effects rarely ventured beyond quiet ambience, and even score popped up infrequently. When the music appeared, it showed good imaging, but those were almost the only times the side or rear speakers showed obvious life. This was an exceedingly low-key soundscape.

Audio quality appeared fine. Music provided the most presence, and the score appeared pretty full and rich. Effects demonstrated little range because those elements had almost nothing to do; it’s not tough to accurately reproduce the gentle chirping of birds. Speech appeared natural and concise, at least. I had no problems with the soundtrack, but I also couldn’t claim that it ever rose above a firm level of mediocrity.

Among the extras, we get two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director Frank Oz, as he provides a running, screen-specific chat. Oz discusses the opening credits, cast and performances, character and story areas, sets and locations, costumes and music, pacing and tone, and a few other areas.

At its best, this track delivers a good number of facts and observations from the shoot, as Oz manages to provide a fair amount of worthwhile info. Unfortunately, the commentary suffers from a surfeit of happy talk. Oz devotes much of the chat to praise for the gags, the film and all involved. He still delivers enough useful data to make the piece useful, but all the puffery makes it a bit of a chore.

For the second commentary, we hear from writer Dean Craig and actors Alan Tudyk and Andy Nyman. All three sit together for their running, screen-specific look at cast and performances, story/script areas, sets and locations, and general thoughts about the production.

Expect a jovial, breezy chat but not one that delivers a ton of movie-making details. Most of the material revolves around aspects of the shoot and gives us minor notes from the set. Though we don’t learn a lot about the production, the track moves well and remains engaging enough.

A Gag Reel goes for seven minutes, 47 seconds. What should you expect? A lot of goofs and giggles but nothing more. Even if you like that kind of material, this collection seems awfully long and likely to wear out its one-note welcome.

An ad for Lions for Lambs opens the disc. The DVD also throws in promos for Blue State and “MGM Means Great Movies”. No trailer for Funeral appears here.

Death at a Funeral doesn’t fire on all cylinders, but it delivers a pretty good dark comedy. It uses a common social setting to nice effect and delivers an amusing experience. The DVD provides acceptable picture, mediocre audio and a couple of audio commentaries. This is a decent release for an entertaining flick.

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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main