The Original Death at a Funeral Was No Classic, Guys

I haven't yet seen the new, Neil LaBute-helmed remake of Death at a Funeral, but I'm amused by how offended people are on the original film's behalf. Is it kind of startling that so little time would pass between the 2007 British version and its American remake? Sure. Is the original film a lost, mistreated classic? Hardly.

Ironically, I think this remake is the best thing that could have happened to the British version. In their mad rush to criticize LaBute for recycling such a recent film, bloggers have begun building up the original's reputation. Here's the thing, though: it wasn't actually that good!

In fact, it was a fairly limp farce where the only decent performances came from its two American imports, Peter Dinklage and an accented Alan Tudyk. As the lead, a dull Matthew Macfadyen undid nearly all the promise of his Pride & Prejudice turn, while the other roles were weakly cast, conceived, and acted. The American version features a "who's who" of black comic actors, but the original was simply a "who"? I've seen Rupert Graves and Ewan Bremner deliver good performances in other films, but they surely didn't in this. As for the rest of the cast, I haven't seen most of them before or since.

Worse was Frank Oz's direction. For a man with Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, What About Bob?, and In & Out on his resume, the least you'd expect from him is a film with good comic timing and airtight editing. His Funeral had neither, limping along from scene to scene, steadfastly refusing to exploit each setup for maximum comic potential. Cinema Blend recently compared scenes from the original to clips from the new version, and though the site found the results to be unfavorable to LaBute, all it did was remind me how Oz let his scenes leak comic energy until they fell flat on the floor.

Will the new, Chris Rock-led Death with a Funeral be any better? I can't say for sure, though I don't fault the filmmakers for trying; to me, it makes far more sense to remake a so-so film with a good premise than it does to re-do an absolute classic. Still, if you were a fan of the first film, I wouldn't worry. Good or bad, the LaBute version won't kill it off -- if anything, this has apparently brought it back to life.


  • whoneedslight says:

    Death at a Funeral was one of those movies that my mom told me was HILARIOUS! I should always know better. I just hope the remake is better than Wicker Man, NEIL!
    (It was nice to see Rupert Graves, however.)

  • Jamila says:

    In my defense, I'm offended for an entirely different reason.
    Hey, look! A movie devoted to black buffoonery! There's no way this won't be awesome! I mean, the trailer had a man crapping on another guy's hand, a mother fakely pushing her daughter out of the way to see her wonderful son, and of course, calling an Asian man, "Jackie Chan". Get it? Because Asians all look the same! And Jackie Chan is Asian! Because it's funny when you mock other races that aren't black!
    I can't wait to see this with my family, so they can finally learn that movies that are filled with people of our race can only be obnoxious and grating 'comedies'. And that gay jokes are funny.

  • Katie says:

    Oh Movieline, this is one of those times where I feel our hearts beat as one

  • snickers says:

    I would tolerate another loud obnoxious Tracy Morgan role and yet another lispy Danny Glover performance over the awfully unfunny Brit original.

  • Ethan says:

    When I heard about the remake, was like "WTF?" The original is fucking hilarious and no remake was needed! I probably will see the new one, because I enjoy the work of all the actors in it. And, Dinklage is playing the same guy in this new one.

  • non-insular says:

    Trust a Yank ( Kyle Buchanan) to find a British film unfunny and not to know most of the cast -except of course, the American imports. I suppose I should thank him - after all, he gave me a better laugh at his parochialism than the over-acted re-make.
    And is such a brave move to make a 'Black' version of the original? Where's the gay dwarf?