Friends and relatives gather to exchange memories and disapproving looks; a hypochondriac’s tag-along obsessively follows an already-taken woman; a “short man” wants to share graphic photos with other guests; and hallucinogens cause a man to sit stark naked on the roof.
Sound entertaining? It should – especially since it all takes place at a funeral.
Daniel (Matthew MacFadyen) only wants to give his father a dignified send-off; unfortunately, that proves harder than it should. In addition to the above antics, Daniel must contend with a wife (Keeley Hawes) with dreams bigger than their means and the overcasting shadow of a famous novelist brother (Rupert Graves) who escaped to New York.
The proceedings are consistently delayed by the belligerence of Uncle Alfie (Peter Vaughn), the bickering of non-immediate family, the demands of blackmail, the ravings of a drug-induced madman, and the need to cover-up the title’s casualty.
Dean Craig’s screenplay has modernized the screwball comedy, bringing a youthful sense of humour to traditional British farce. Each character has their own agenda, creating conditions for comic possibility whenever their interests collide. At the same time, all the situations that arise are plausible, however ridiculous they may seem. It is this “it could happen” element that heightens the film’s relatability and hilarity.
Death at a Funeral stars Britain’s cream of the crop, most of who are recognizable from memorable roles in Pride and Prejudice (MacFadyen), V for Vendetta (Graves), Severance (Andy Nyman), Trainspotting (Ewen Bremner), and Love Actually (Kris Marshall), as well as Americans Alan Tudyk of Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story and Peter Dinklage from Elf. In addition, English-born American Frank Oz, who also directed The Little Shop of Horrors, What about Bob? and Bowfinger, undertakes the helm again here.
When a comedy is set at a funeral, it can only be good if it is dark and, consequently, not tasteless. Death at a Funeral is good, even if it is recycling tried-and-true gags.
“Tea can do many things dear, but it can’t bring back the dead.” Someone should tell this to Simon (Tudyk), whose delusions assure him the coffin is moving.