A movie set in its entirety at a memorial service might sound morbid and depressing, but 2010’s “Death at a Funeral” is actually anything but! In fact, the Screen Gems/Sony Pictures comedy (which is currently streaming on Netflix) is laugh-out-loud hilarious from start to finish! Considering its ensemble cast of comedic greats, which includes Chris Rock, Danny Glover, Kevin Hart, Martin Lawrence and Tracy Morgan, the movie’s jocular core seems almost inherent. As famed film critic Roger Ebert opined, “Death at a Funeral” is “the best comedy since ‘The Hangover.’”
The Neil LaBute-directed laugh-fest centers around the memorial of Edward Barnes (Bob Minor), the patriarch of a large group of quarrelsome characters, all of whom gather at the deceased’s former home to say their goodbyes. The ceremony quickly unravels through a series of unfortunate (but, of course, humorous) events, with eldest son, Aaron (Rock), attempting to hold things together to absolutely no avail. Featuring a mix of highbrow and lowbrow moments (including a bathroom scene in which Glover’s cranky Uncle Russell character experiences stomach trouble after a few bites of potato salad), as Ebert notes, “A lot of ‘Death at a Funeral’ is in very bad taste. That’s when I laughed the most.” Same, Roger, same! As inappropriate as it may seem, I dare you not to howl when mourner Oscar (James Marsden), who has inadvertently downed some heavy-duty hallucinogenic drugs prior to the service, knocks over Edward’s coffin, causing his corpse to roll out onto the floor to the horror of all in attendance.
Based upon the 2007 Frank Oz-directed British comedy of the same name, which is set at an idyllic estate in the English countryside, the remake instead takes place in Southern California. To facilitate the shift in locales and distinguish the movie from its predecessor, LaBute sought a home with a distinct Sunshine State appeal to serve as the main backdrop. As such, a Craftsman residence became his obvious choice. Not only is the architectural genre one of the mainstays of the SoCal landscape but the style’s characteristically dark nature authentically lends itself to a funeral setting.