REVIEW: Death at a Funeral

3 09 2010

It’s a funny thing, the remake of “Death at a Funeral.” The British original in 2007 turned the title, which implied the melancholy proceedings of a sacred ritual, into something totally unforeseen – a laugh riot.

There are those of us who think two decades is too soon for a remake, but Neil LaBute turns around the hilarious original for a Hollywood treatment in under three years. Essentially, there’s no reason for this remake to exist other than to make the script more digestible to a mainstream audience. Nothing new is brought to the table, no retooling or adding is done. It’s practically a shot-by-shot remake, claiming that swapping accents is enough to warrant the millions of dollars to produce the movie.

It’s a strange experience to watch these often funny stars, including Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, and Tracy Morgan, running around doing a half-hearted version of the original movie.  In fact, it’s almost like an out-of-body experience as we watch them utter virtually the same lines and run through the same motions as the British actors did – but never come close to matching their comedic brilliance.  Surprisingly, the funniest member of the ensemble is James Marsden, who truly embraces the farcical nature of his character and plays it up to hilarity.  However, we only get to see glances of the zonked Marsden, never prolonged scenes.

I find there no reason to watch this movie when a clearly superior alternative exists.  Sure, this version has a few laughs and is hardly unfunny, but why choose chuckles over the howls that you can have watching the original?  If you had the choice between a rotting apple that looked nice and a fresh apple with a little bit of dust on top, which would you eat?  This “Death at a Funeral” looks nice on a poster, but at its core, the movie is pretty rotten.  There’s no reason NOT to go off the beaten path to watch the British version.  C /

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What To Look Forward To in … April 2010

24 03 2010

I completely forgot that I needed to do this post, so for any of you who happened to be waiting all month for this, my apologies.  But maybe having the April preview post closer to the month itself will increase voting in the polls (wishful thinking) or increase excitement for the month’s releases.

April is usually that awkward month before Hollywood comes out all cylinders firing for summer, but I think this year boasts one of the month’s finest lineups in a long time.

April 2

The first truly BIG action movie of 2010 finally arrives!  “Clash of the Titans” is that taste of high-octane blockbuster that will serve as the perfect tease for summer.  After seeing the success of “Avatar,” Warner Bros. saw that they had the capability to create a 3-D version of “Clash of the Titans.”  So, now the movie arrives in both the second and third dimension.  This is the first time in my memory that three huge 3-D movies have come out within a month of each other, and I think it is only a preview of what is to come (just pray that your theater can accommodate the demand.)  Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think this is the first big live-action movie to come out in 3-D.  I’m excited.

Tyler Perry is at it again with “Why Did I Get Married Too.”  The first one did pretty well, but if Perry can expand beyond his normal audience is still a question.  Oh, and I forgot to mention it in the March preview, but the latest Nicholas Sparks sob-fest, “The Last Song,” comes out on Wednesday, March 31.  It stars Greg Kinnear and some unknown actress named Miley Cyrus.

April 9
The comedy gods smile upon us at last! Tina Fey and Steve Carell together in “Date Night” seems long overdue. Let’s just hope that the writing of this movie deserves their talents.

And for those of you who liked Christian entertainment like “Fireproof” and “Facing the Giants,” then “Letters to God” will surely excite you.

The Runaways” opens wide this weekend, but I don’t think this will be any big event given its lackluster performance in 244 theaters in this past weekend (strangely, not a one of them was in Houston, the fourth largest city in the county).

April 16

There seems to be a large cult fan base gathering around “Kick-Ass.”  Sometimes that can be bad (“Snakes on a Plane”), and sometimes it works (“Cloverfield”).  This seems to be a pretty entertaining premise: basically a send-up of “Watchmen” and ordinary people becoming superheroes.  I think I’ll wait to get the audience’s take before I slap down some cash for this.

Please do yourself a tremendous favor.  Before you go see Chris Rock’s urbanized version of “Death at a Funeral,” be sure to rent the original British version.  Even if this latest spin fails, you will have seen one absolutely hysterical movie.

April 23

Disney Nature rolls out its annual Earth Day “nature porn” documentary, “Oceans,” shot in sweeping views that could make your heart turn green.  Meanwhile, CBS Films (?) gives us Jennifer Lopez in “The Back-Up Plan” as a woman who bypasses the normal steps and gets pregnant.  But in typical coincidental rom-com fashion, this all happens on the day she meets the perfect man.

The best of the worst this weekend appears to be “The Losers,” starring Neytiri (Zoe Saldana).  The movie follows a group of CIA agents who seek out the group that tried to assassinate them.  Who knows, maybe this will make a good rental.

April 30

“The Nightmare on Elm Street” looks legit.  I’m scared.  Plus it has Jackie Earle Haley, the man who made “Little Children” crazy good. (For a different kind of nightmare, see Brendan Fraser in “Furry Vengeance.”)

As for the indie scene, which doesn’t seem to be too big in April, the best offering seems to be “Please Give.”  A hit at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, the movie follows a married couple (Catherine Keener and Oliver Platt) who have to wait for their elderly neighbor to die so they can expand their apartment.  It seems to be that nice blend of comedy and drama which really has the ability to hit home.

“I Love You Phillip Morris” was slated for release back in February, but it’s here now for unexplained reasons. The movie premiered at Cannes last year and after some issues finding a distributor is finally finding a way into a theater near you – or will it? Rumor is that the movie had to be tamed down to find distribution due to its strong homosexual content. The two lovers here are Jim Carrey and Ewan MacGregor, a pair that discovers their love in prison. Before heading to the slammer, Carrey’s character was a straight Christian policeman from Texas. Now, he finds himself determined to bust out to be reunited with his lover. I’m curious to see if Freestyle Releasing can get it in front of a large audience … this is the third month that I have published this same blurb. Will they ever settle on a release date?

Thoughts, anyone?  What are YOU looking forward to in April?