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.