After the travesty of Love Wedding Repeat on Tuesday, I wasn’ quite sure to go with today’s TBT review. In the end, I decided to give Dean Craig a second chance. His Netflix film was his directorial debut, so it’s entirely possible that he just got a bit overexcited. I’d never seen any of his other films. I remember the 2010 remake of this film coming out and having absolutely no interest in seeing it. But would I have an interest in the original? It wouldn’t be the first time America had taken a British concept and destroyed it.
Death at a Funeral proves that Dean Craig likes to stick to a pretty basic premise. Get a bunch of people in the same room and set-up plenty of ridiculous situations for comedic effect. His most recent effort involved a wedding, his 2007 film involved a funeral. Namely the funeral of Daniel’s father. He has had to organise the entire thing while his acclaimed writer brother was off in New York. Daniel is the stuffy one and Rupert is the one everybody likes. When an unexpected guest turns Daniel’s world upside down, it starts a chain of events that will threaten to tear the whole day apart.
I guess this is a British farce that kind of adheres to the traditions of those classic black and white comedies. Though there is plenty more crass humour to contend with. A couple of the jokes feel a bit much and don’t have the gross-out payoff that was clearly intended. This is a film that embraces the absurd and pushes it as far as possible. This film is part farce, part slapstick, and part absurdist nightmare. You definitely can’t say that it doesn’t try it’s best to please you as it’s crammed full of jokes. Jokes that are fired at you non-stop thanks to the lightning-quick pace of everything. Maybe that’s my biggest problem? You don’t get a moment to breathe here. There is never any real time to digest what you’ve seen and what’s going to happen. It’s all just setup, joke, next setup, next joke over and over again.
The fact is, this film had everything about it to be a good film but it just ends up being really disappointing. The cast is all great and works together brilliantly. The problem is, they just aren’t given enough good things to do. The humour is so hit and miss. You might end up finding a few things funny but it’s not necessarily because it’s good. Sometimes it feels more like Stockholm syndrome where you spend so long with terrible jokes that you no longer think they’re that bad.
I know I’ve given this film a higher rating than my review on Tuesday but I honestly think that’s just because I prefer the actors here. And maybe Frank Oz’s direction adds a little something to the occasion. It at least feels like a more self-assured film than Craig’s latest. There are some interesting ideas here and I just wish the final product had been ever so slightly more sophisticated.