“Death at a Funeral is one of the funniest films I’ve seen this century, as surprising, consistent and laugh-out-loud hilarious as any movie in the past 10 years,” writes Marshall Fine. “The original 2007 version, that is — the one directed by Frank Oz, with a British cast.
“The new remake of Death at a Funeral, the one with Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence and a who’s who of African-American actors — well, that’s another story. I mean, it’s the same story, practically scene for scene. And it’s funny with a handful of big laughs. But it’s not nearly as funny as the original.
“Unfortunately, the reality is that many millions more people will be drawn to this broad, raucous version of Dean Craig‘s script (directed, incongruously enough, by misanthropic playwright/filmmaker Neil Labute) than ever saw Oz’s version, which barely cracked the arthouse market. And they’ll laugh hard at surefire jokes involving hallucinogenic drugs, dead bodies, public nudity and poop.
“But Labute’s Death is the equivalent of one of those Hollywood translations of a Francis Veber farce from the 1980s and 1990s. Veber would craft a weightless French comedy starring, say, Gerard Depardieu and Pierre Richard — and then Hollywood would translate it into a ham-handed lump starring, say, Nick Nolte and Martin Short.
“Yes, Labute’s Death is virtually a photocopy, in terms of the story it tells and the comedy beats it hits. Yet everything in this version is coarser and more obvious, aimed at a lowest-common-denominator audience.”
In all fairness, I must point out that the opening graph of Fine’s review reminded me of the opening graph of A.O. Scott’s review of Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor, to wit:
“The Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor that brought the United States into World War II has inspired a splendid movie, full of vivid performances and unforgettable scenes, a movie that uses the coming of war as a backdrop for individual stories of love, ambition, heroism and betrayal. The name of that movie is From Here to Eternity.”