‘Death at a Funeral’
Director: Neil LaBute
Cast: Chris Rock, Tracy Morgan, Martin Lawrence, Luke Wilson, Zoe Saldana
It’s never clear why the world needed an American version of “Death at a Funeral,” Frank Oz’s 2007 British comedy, but the result is entertaining all the same. Collecting an all-star ensemble, the film follows the beleaguered Aaron (Chris Rock) as he tries to bury his recently deceased father while dealing with a number of family issues — not least of which is his resentment of younger brother Ryan (Martin Lawrence), the successful, limelight-hogging author. (Aaron, of course, is an aspiring writer himself, though he hasn’t let anyone read his manuscript.)
Transplanting the story from England to Pasadena, Calif., few changes have been made to the plot. Peter Dinklage even reprises his role as a mysterious guest with information about the deceased he assumes the family would like buried along with him.
While very funny, the film suffers from two distinct problems, the first being its rush to tie up plot lines — or drop them altogether. After spending most of the film pestering ex-girlfriend Elaine (Zoe Saldana) to take him back, Luke Wilson’s character abruptly says he’s just going to wait in the car, never to be seen again. Several other long-simmering family issues are resolved in far-too-brief conversations. The other problem is Chris Rock himself, who seems ill-equipped to carry the film, even with such a huge ensemble around him. Playing the straight man to so much insanity, Rock feels restrained, his stronger comic abilities wasted.