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Death at a Funeral tips its hand in the first few minutes and then offers up no surprises for the entire length of its, thankfully very short, running time. After one joke, spoiled in the trailer, the next treat is being introduced to the group of characters who will populate the movie. The realization that none of these people are funny comes, but along with that there is something worse, the realization that each one of them has a problem that will be resolved by the day?s end. Decisiveness, selfishness, fear, hypochondria and being a giant douchebag are all addressed, although thankfully the drug dealer does not decide to reform his life.
The jokes finally do start, but they?re not only unoriginal but poorly told. One of the first sight gags shows a group of old women driving slowly, then shows a car stuck behind them and then has the driver curse the women out. Cursing at old people may strike some funny bones, but this is a joke told without any element of surprise, a theme that will be repeated ad nauseum throughout the film. When Alan Tudyk accidentally takes acid instead of vicodin, the audience already knows what?s in the bottle and expects him to freak out. And this gag is repeated twice more.
There?s another very oddly done bit in the film. The reading from the bible at the titular funeral is some very homosexual passage. With the trailer being a fixture at the theater for months it is already known that the deceased was ?a gay,? (As he is referred to twice in the film) but giving away the surprise early is only funny if you already know. Otherwise it?s just obscenely odd.
Clumsiness aside, as the film settles into its rut, it brings its focus to a few groups of characters. None of them are funny. There?s the now common fixture of the old person who curses at everyone. There?s a ?friend? who goes around like some Larry David doppelganger, both getting into a loud sparring match at the reading and bothering a doctor, who is not a dermatologist, about a skin discoloration. He also gets shat on. Whenever the film really needs to screech to a halt, though, it cuts to Tudyk, who mugs throughout the entire film. Simply showing a man standing naked on a roof might be funny, but returning to that when its already known that he?s out there starkers is not.
The main subplot of the film is the only one that is even of the slightest interest. After Peter Dinklage shows up to blackmail the two brothers they decide that kidnapping him is the best course to take. Funny in and of itself and done better than the rest of the film, but it?s constantly interrupted, not only by cutting away but by the previously mentioned shit gag, and the film seems to want to remain a light piece of whimsy as the protagonists kidnap, drug and then kill a man.
The tone doesn?t only stay light, but the film ends with painful attempts at pathos. Characters who are wholly undeveloped beyond one trait all grow in the end. A woman stands up to her father; a man decides he doesn?t care why his wrist is grey. And the two brothers fix their lives. After being in such a dark place that they would kill a man accidentally and then hide it they just lightly go back to where they were, changed but not in any logical way that would follow from what they had just done.
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