When I think of the month of May, two things come to mind. The first is an image of the earth bursting with new life and beauty and light. The second is the special day where we honor mothers for all the love and nurturing they bring into the world and how that adds to the beauty of all the life around us. I am sorry to announce that Death at a Funeral does not carry out these themes.
For a movie with such a strong premise of family, there is not a lot of love or beauty being thrown around. It is a somewhat dark, but definitely silly, movie. Death at a Funeral tells the story of a large dysfunctional family who has gathered together to honor a deceased loved one. What ensues is a day of escalating chaos. This chaos creates moments of true hilarity amid ridiculous circumstances, but contrived characters and predictable storylines take a lot of the fun out of the whole experience.
Chris Rock plays the dependable older brother, Aaron. He shoulders the responsibilities of the family while slick, flaky, younger brother Ryan, played by Martin Lawrence, flits in and receives family glory because he is the “success” of the family. Both men are writers. Aaron, being the oldest, is to give the eulogy for his father. Yet at every turn, family members question why the family’s “published” brother isn’t bestowed the privilege.
But none of this really matters. The mayhem that ensues throughout the course of the day makes the delivery of the eulogy a challenge in and of itself. Couple that with startling information that comes to light about who their father really was, and the eulogy itself appears to be in evolution, to say the least.
The strength of this movie is in the cast. It has both great recognizable actors, like Danny Glover, as well as some of today’s hot up-and-comers, like Zoe Saldana and Tracy Morgan. The stand-out performance though, is James Marsden. His circumstances over the course of the day got the biggest laughs, barring one juvenile scene in a bathroom between the aging Danny Glover and the unfortunate Tracy Morgan. It’s hard to beat a good poop gag (take this in the literal sense, given this circumstance).
Overall, Death at a Funeral is not bad. It has some great laughs and some wonderful actors who get the most out of their thin material. It is just a shame that there wasn’t a little more “oomph” to the story to make it seem less asinine. Well, nothing and nobody are perfect.
Speaking of that … to all you moms out there: we may not be perfect (it is far too hard of a job to even attempt to aspire to that), but we are wonderful. Thank you for doing your best every day and leading with love and seeing the beauty in those that you share that love with. Go treat yourself to something special, like a good movie.