Published Apr 15, 2010So, here's the thing: director Neil LaBute is a noted a misanthrope, a hater of people and a guy that finds great pleasure in pointing out bits of human nastiness that most people are uncomfortable talking about, addressing or even acknowledging. He used to make movies about gender inequality and the natural male tendency towards misogyny, with the resultant female response of passivity or manipulation (In the Company of Men, Your Friends & Neighbours, The Shape of Things), but now seems transfixed on racial double standards and hypocrisy in America.
Think Lakeview Terrace, a film where a black cop harasses his white neighbour for smoking, listening to hip-hop music, having sex in his backyard and marrying a black woman. Now, switch the colour of everyone's skin and think of how people would react. The same goes for this Death at a Funeral remake. The original British comedy about family secrets revealed at a patriarch's funeral was made with an entirely white cast. In LaBute's remake, everyone is black, save the little person/blackmailer/homosexual (Peter Dinklage), the guy tripping out on drugs (James Marsden) and the guy hitting on someone else's girlfriend (Luke Wilson). Now, switch the colour of everyone's skin and think about it.
With this taboo transgression implicit, the actual exercise of Death at a Funeral comes off as serviceable, professional and mostly unexceptional. Very little has changed from the original, with Martin Lawrence stepping in as the trailblazing writer and Chris Rock taking the role of his bitter brother left behind. Both actors do their regular shtick seemingly on autopilot, handling the news of their dead father's queer shenanigans with the subtlety of a Mack truck at a ballet, scrounging humour from standard homophobia and shit jokes.
This isn't to slam humour of a scatological nature necessarily, as the sequence where Danny Glover poops all over Tracy Morgan is quite amusing, but it's not exactly progressive or highbrow fare. And, quite frankly, this could be said for the film on the whole, as there are indeed some laughs to be had, arguably more so than the original. But aside from background race relation observations there is nothing here to remember, or even really care about. (Sony)