Part of the problem with the remake the 2007 Death at a Funeral lies with the fact that it begs to be compared with the original. Producer Chris Rock seems to have thought the material could be effectively transported — scene for scene — to Los Angeles and African-Americanized. That doesn’t sound unreasonable, but seeing it in action is another matter. The trouble begins at the very outset. The new version reproduces the scene where the wrong body is delivered to the house for the funeral. The tone is immediately wrong. Rock cracks wise about the decidedly Asian corpse that’s been delivered (“You brought me Jackie Chan”). It tries too hard. The original works because of the setting and its very proper, very stiff-necked upper-class Brits. The characters don’t make wisecracks — they make do. They muddle through and try to put the best face on that they can while the situation quickly spins out of control. Here, we land in a realm of chaos and open in-fighting. The film never really spirals out of control, because things were out of control to start with. It only becomes more frenetic, which often feels like desperation. The original also benefits from being an ensemble work. The new film shoehorns established celebrities like Rock, Martin Lawrence, Danny Glover, Tracy Morgan, James Marsden, Luke Wilson, and others into the proceedings and tries to afford each one some kind of spotlight bit. That might be nice for the performers, but it does little for the film itself. If you’ve seen the original, it’s tedious. If you haven’t, you should rent it.
Director: Neil LaBute
Writer: Aeysha Carr and Chris Rock
Producer: William Horberg, Sidney Kimmel, Laurence Malkin, Chris Rock and Share Stallings
Cast: Loretta Devine, Chris Rock, Danny Glover, Regina Hall, Martin Lawrence, James Marsden, Tracy Morgan, Peter Dinklage, Zoë Saldaña and Columbus Short