Marking one of the quickest turnarounds in cinema history, 2010’s Death at a Funeral is a remake of 2007’s Death at a Funeral, the hit British comedy in which a lightly estranged family gathers after the death of its patriarch, and dark farcical hell breaks loose. For the American remake, the English family is replaced with an African-American clan, portrayed by a cavalcade of stars: Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, Tracy Morgan, Danny Glover, Regina Hall, and Zoe “the chick from Avatar” Saldana. But despite the previously successful source material, the talented cast, and the strenuous efforts of all involved, the new Death is mostly a big dumb dud.
The majority of blame must go to director Neil LaBute, the famously edgy filmmaker/playwright presumably brought on board for his dark-comedy track record. But farce is a different animal, one LaBute is still struggling to wrangle. With his cast veering between too-broad comedy and too-broad sentimentality, LaBute’s film splatters itself across the screen like the bastard love child of a Tyler Perry sap-fest and a Farrelly brothers gross-out. Deprived of any farcical spark, Dean Craig’s cartoonish and repetitive script slogs through its increasingly in-your-face paces, resulting in the rare film that’s both frantic and glacially paced.
It’s not all bad. Chris Rock makes a good leading man, and both Martin Lawrence (as Rock’s morally bankrupt brother) and James Marsden (as one of the clan’s honky fiancés) do inspired comic work. Also—spoiler alert!—there is an extended scene in which Danny Glover poops all over Tracy Morgan. If you’ve always wanted to see Danny Glover poop all over Tracy Morgan, here’s your chance. If you never want to see Danny Glover poop all over Tracy Morgan, stay away.