When Daniel is entrusted with reading the eulogy at his father's funeral, his greatest fear is that his older brother who has jetted in from New York is going to steal his thunder. He reckoned without wider family squabbles, his cousin's fiance causing havoc on LSD and a stranger showing up demanding a large sum of money.
It’s no easy task putting the fun back into funeral. But director Frank Oz does a pretty good job of it in the black comedy – Death At A Funeral.
Oz is the British born director who has made a lot of American movies, including In & Out and Bowfinger. Remember him best, you may, as the voice of Yoda.
This is Oz’s first film on home soil and in making a British ensemble movie he thankfully stays away from the mawkishness of fluff like Four Weddings And A Funeral or Love Actually.
What Oz has also done is assemble a cast who’re talented but not so well known that they overwhelm their roles. That’s a good thing because the angsty Brit characters do seem quite familiar at first and a stammering Hugh Grant really could’ve killed it.
Matthew Macfadyen plays the dutiful son Daniel who is trying to ensure a smooth funeral for his father. His wife Jane – Keely Hawes – is more interested in whether he’s paid a deposit on a flat. And his glib famous novelist brother Robert – Rupert Graves – looks set to steal the eulogy limelight while crying poor over the cost of burying the old man.
Then there’s cousin Martha whose new fiancé Simon has been accidentally dosed with a powerful hallucinogen. Topping it off is a mysterious dwarf who unleashes even greater chaos. Some of the later scenes are hilarious - and surprisingly engaging characters emerge from what at first seem broad comic stereotypes.
Alan Tudyk’s drug freak out gets funnier and funnier as does Andy Nyman’s nervy hypochondriac, a man who suffers through 2007’s most unexpected gross out moment. And short statured Peter Dinklage, best known for Elf and The Station Agent, is always great value.
Death At A Funeral is all over the place to begin with. In its first half it’s pleasant enough but doesn’t really come up with a lot of laughs as it sets up the various character strands.
These pay off in the film’s second half as the scenarios stack up on each other and the absurdities multiply.
This isn’t exactly groundbreaking stuff but as a black comedy to make you cackle it rates three stars. Death At A Funeral is in cinemas Oct 11.