By Matt Brunson
DEATH AT A FUNERAL
DIRECTED BY Neil LaBute
STARS Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence
A remake of a film that was released a mere three years ago wow, that was quick; what's coming out next week, a remake of March's Hot Tub Time Machine? director Neil LaBute and writer Dean Craig scuttle the British setting of 2007's Death at a Funeral in order to stamp this with a "Made In USA" label. The result is a perfectly pleasant piffle, a comedy that fails to produce many big laughs but knows how to parcel out its small ones at an acceptable clip.
Still, this isn't half as uproarious as LaBute's ill-fated remake of The Wicker Man, a bomb whose unintentional laughs continue to delight viewers via well-spliced YouTube compilations. But I digress. Death at a Funeral focuses on the events surrounding the laying to rest of a well-respected man who leaves behind a wide assortment of friends and family members. Among the ranks of the bereaved is his oldest son Aaron (Chris Rock), who's forced to shoulder the entire cost of the funeral since he can't count on his successful yet irresponsible brother Ryan (Martin Lawrence). But Aaron's issues with Ryan take a back seat when a stranger (Peter Dinklage, reprising his role from the original) arrives at the funeral home hoping to blackmail the siblings over their father's extracurricular activities.
A true ensemble piece, this suffers when humor takes a back seat to drama for example, the plotline involving a slick businessman's (Luke Wilson) attempts to win back the deceased's niece (Avatar's Zoe Saldana) adds nothing. But the picture is breezy enough to always get back on track fairly quick, and there are some nice comic moments from Danny Glover as a cantankerous uncle, Tracy Morgan as a perpetually nervous acquaintance, and James Marsden as Saldana's boyfriend, whose accidental ingestion of hallucinogens leads to some madcap mishaps.