Frank Oz transplants his sitcom sensibilities to the UK drawing-room comedy with Death at a Funeral, a strained farce in which lots of one-dimensional Brits converge at the memorial service for their family’s patriarch and proceed to act like buffoons. Ludicrousness is the main course served, though without a single gag that isn’t tediously announced in advance, the aftertaste left by this series of absurd, interlocking mini-dramas is patently sour. Daddy issues, rebuffed romantic desires, and sibling jealousy all bubble to the surface during the somber event, yet the primary factor in turning the occasion downright chaotic is Peter (Peter Dinklage), a mystery man who shows up to blackmail dutiful Daniel (Matthew Macfadyen) and his celebrity novelist brother Robert (Rupert Graves) with a supposed bombshell: that he and their deceased father were lovers. British accents and an ivy-covered country home setting can’t obscure the fact that the ensuing lewd madness is of a Three’s Company variety. Murder eventually enters the equation but the quandaries it poses are as toothless and lethargic as the ongoing dilemma of Simon (Alan Tudyk), whose attempt to impress the disapproving father of his soon-to-be-wife Martha (Daisy Donovan) is complicated by his accidental ingestion of a hallucinogenic drug. The pill that Simon swallows causes him to giggle and drool like a simpleminded child, imagine that the coffin is moving, and climb onto the roof in his birthday suit and threaten suicide, all behavior so excessively clownish that it calls into serious doubt whether anyone involved with the production has ever actually consumed mind-altering substances. Death at a Funeral’s unfamiliarity with the way real-world narcotics work, however, is in step with its ignorance regarding how comedies-of-manners are supposed to operate. Lavishing unequal treatment on its storylines and failing to produce any witty banter or build any proper momentum for its signature centerpieces (one of which involves an old man’s feces winding up in another man’s mouth), the film dishes out only lifeless zaniness, its humor ultimately, uncomfortably situated between Oscar Wilde and Benny Hill.
- 90 min
- Frank Oz
- Dean Craig
- Matthew Macfadyen, Peter Dinklage, Alan Tudyk, Ewen Bremner, Rupert Graves, Daisy Donovan, Kris Marshall, Andy Nyman, Jane Asher, Keeley Hawes, Peter Vaughan
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: