Sign up for our newsletters   

Baltimore City Paper home.

film Home > Movie Reviews


Death at a Funeral

Death at a Funeral

Director:Frank Oz
Cast:Matthew MacFadyen, Keeley Hawes, Andy Nyman, Ewen Bremner, Daisy Donovan, Alan Tudyk, Peter Dinklage
Release Date:2007

Opens Aug. 17

By Cole Haddon | Posted 8/15/2007

Death at a Funeral begins simply enough for a British comedy; like just about everything written by Richard Curtis (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually), it involves a gaggle of flustered, disparate Brits who, you quickly realize, will all collide for hilarity and probably mayhem. Except Death at a Funeral was not written by Curtis. Sophomore screenwriter Dean Craig (Caffeine) enjoys that accomplishment, and his effort transports the typically eccentric cast of characters that shows up in these quirky comedies--a genre that has become progressively less inspired since Four Weddings--into a farce approaching the outrageously silly scale of Clue.

When his father dies, aspiring author Daniel (Matthew MacFadyen) finds himself besieged on the day of the funeral by family and friends--and one very brokenhearted little person--who seem both unintentionally and intentionally set upon destroying the event. Hell, at one point, Danielís fatherís body spills out of the coffin much to the horror of all present. For Daniel, in particular, this day is especially difficult. Sure, heís lost his father, but he also has to deal with his wildly successful author-brother Robert (Rupert Graves); his wife, Jane (Keeley Hawes), who desperately wants to move out of his parentsí house; and the aforementioned little person, Peter (Peter Dinklage), who has a shocking revelation about the deceased that heís willing to keep quiet for 15,000 pounds. This does not even include his cousinís fiancť, Simon (Alan Tudyk), who has mistakenly taken some extremely powerful hallucinogens that land him naked on the roof.

In other words, itís just about the worst funeral you can imagine. Thankfully, the same canít be said about the movie, despite some pretty unimaginative jokes. In fact, just about every joke here feels like something youíve seen somewhere else--except those made about Peterís height disadvantage, which are all pretty damn hilarious. The movie works despite its familiarity for a few reasons, including some gut-wrenching performances by Dinklage, Tudyk, and Andy Nyman as a hypochondriac cousin; jokes that set up and fall into place in short and long order with casual ease; and the deft touch and passion for absurd reverie that director Frank Oz (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) brings to the movie.

That all said, itís impossible to deny that Death at a Funeral is an amusing 90-minute diversion. Craig might have found a way to breathe a bit of life back into the British comedy, but Curtisí work has always had something to say about humanity or, at least, love. Death at a Funeral is surprisingly empty in that regard, and leaves you as satisfied as Chinese food.

Comments powered by Disqus
CP on Facebook
CP on Twitter