MOVIE: Death at a Funeral (2007)

After my review of Withnail & I, a couple of people recommended this British comedy to me in the comments.  It sounded like a great concept for a funny flick — the patriarch of a British clan dies, bringing the family together for the funeral with disastrous results.  (I mean, I guess that doesn’t sound inherently funny, but awkward family moments usually bode well for laughs, in my experience.)

Unfortunately, though, while it’s definitely entertaining and amusing and at least ten times more clever than most American comedies I’ve seen, it wasn’t quite as hilarious as I was hoping it would be.   I think a big part of my disappointment was rooted in the fact I was watching it immediately after the revelatory experience of seeing Withnail for the first time.  What can live up to that, I ask you?    But, for me, it wasn’t really on the same level as Withnail — undeniably funny and extremely entertaining (and I really, really enjoyed it, I should add!) but unlikely to become a quotable favorite the way I think Withnail definitely will.

The main character in Death at a Funeral is the son of the dead gent, Daniel (Matthew Macfayden).  As he was the son who lived closest to his parents (by “closest,” I should say “with”), he got stuck organizing the funeral, despite the fact he’s broke (see above, re: living with Mom) and doesn’t appear to have been all that crazy about either his father OR his over-the-top-with-the-crazy-martyrdom mother.

Coming in for the occasion is Daniel’s famous novelist brother, the very definition of “egomaniac,” and their cousin, whose boyfriend Simon (Serenity ex-Boyfriend Alan Tudyk) is so stressed about finally meeting the family that he takes what he thinks is a Valium, only to discover later it was actually LSD.   He ends up naked on the roof later, which is the least bananas, believe it or not, of all the things about to happen because of that single mislabeled bottle of pills.

The funeral starts off with the undertaker botching the delivery of the body (“That’s not my father!”) and takes an even uglier turn when a mysterious dwarf named Peter shows up (played by the always awesome ex-Boyfriend Peter Dinklage).  When it turns out Peter knows a secret about Daniel’s father and is there to extort the family into keeping it quiet, things get a little, shall we say, psychedelic.

This film is a combination of dark comedy and ridiculous slapstick — a very British combination that works very Britishly (in other words: oddly and well).  But despite the definite sharpness of the whole thing, I didn’t find myself fully riding along.  Again, this may have been a problem of expectations, and a second viewing in a few months might change things completely.  Impossible to say until we give that a shot, I’m afraid.  In the meantime, though, while I’m definitely glad I saw it, if you only have time for one weird British laugher, the choice is clear:  Withnail & I, by a mile.  Make sure you have a bottle of lighter fluid handy in case you get thirsty.

[Netflix it | Buy it]

Genre:  Comedy
Cast:  Matthew Macfayden, Rupert Graves, Peter Dinklage, Alan Tudyk, Peter Egan, Daisy Donovan, Jane Asher

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3 Responses to “MOVIE: Death at a Funeral (2007)”

  1. Magrat Pudifoot Says:

    It wasn’t entirely fair of me to present Death at a Funeral as a Withnail competitor, and I do apologize for that. I think the fact that my grandmother, of all people, was the one who recommended it to me let me have just the right lack of expectations to fully enjoy it. When I suggested you see it, I had just watched the rather awful Eulogy, so I had it on the brain, and it looked rather amazing in comparison.

    Glad you got some enjoyment out of it, but, yeah, I’ll take Withnail and Marlowe over Daniel and Robert most days, myself. “We are indeed drifting into the arena of the unwell.”

  2. Liz Says:

    Sorry, but is it Matthew or Angus Macfayden? We’ve seen them both (Angus more than Matthew, but they’re both good). I could just look it up on IMDb, but I’m lazy, and it’s easier to just mention it here!! 🙂

  3. megwood Says:

    Matthew!

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