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What is surprising is just how little comedy is generated by this film’s stilted and transparent story.

DVD Review: Death at a Funeral

Written by Caballero Oscuro

It’s no surprise that a funeral ceremony isn’t the most likely setting for a comedy. What is surprising is just how little comedy is generated by this film’s stilted and transparent story. Each move is telegraphed so far in advance that there’s little opportunity for laughs or mystery, leaving viewers with an unsatisfying trip through an already unsavory subject.

The film consists of a series of interlocking plotlines coming together at the ground zero setting of a funeral in England, stacking up against each other in what should have been a grand payoff when they all exploded. There’s the son of the deceased fretting over his eulogy and the funeral bill while his brother, a famous and wealthy writer, refuses to contribute to either effort. There’s the newly engaged couple making an extremely poor impression on the father of the bride-to-be when the boyfriend mistakenly takes a powerful hallucinogenic drug before the funeral. And then there’s the mysterious little man unknown to the guests but carrying a dark secret.

Matthew MacFadyen looks a bit more doughy than usual but otherwise puts in an effective performance as the son of the deceased. In a fine act of art imitating life, his real-life spouse and former MI-5 co-star Keeley Hawes plays the role of his long-suffering wife. The rest of the cast is largely unknown here aside from US recruits Alan Tudyk and Peter Dinklage. Tudyk gets the flashiest role as the drug-addled boyfriend making an ass of himself in front of the guests, while Dinklage is the lynchpin who knocks the wheels off the plotlines when he unleashes his not-so-shocking revelation.

The film was directed by Frank Oz, an accomplished director in both comedy and drama, making his misfire here even more surprising. While he elicits solid performances from his players, he’s never able to invest the story with any spark or sense of discovery, leaving viewers to watch the tepid and leaden resolutions unfold with precious little payoff. Although some of the blame can be placed on the unremarkable script, Oz should have been capable of mining this film for dark comedy gold instead of an uninvolving lump of coal.

The DVD is short on extras, so viewers are left with little insight into the film’s production.

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