There’s something vaguely morbid about making a comedy set at exclusively at a funeral. There’s something even more disturbing about the cultured mannerisms of the mostly British cast as they fumble around a corpse. Death at a Funeral is an odd comedy, not necessarily a funny one, but any film that can find a way to put Peter Dinklage in a toga is alright with me. I guess I’ve got Frank Oz to thank for that. He owes me(and the world) after The Stepford Wives.
Last I checked, most funerals shouldn’t be all that complicated. Poor Mark just wants to have a honorable, quiet service for his dearly departed dad. Robert, his slimy, selfish, conceited, and highly successful novelist brother is flying into town to give the eulogy. Mark’s wife, Jane, is up his arse to pay the downpayment on a new flat. Mark’s cousin, Martha, is bringing her new fiance, Simon. Mark’s friends are a motley crew of inepts, one is a sweaty, anxious mess. The other a horndog obsessed with a one night stand he had with Martha months previous. As if that wasn’t bad enough, there’s a mysterious little person, played to greasy brilliance by The Station Agent’s Peter Dinklage, skulking around the funeral looking like he has a bomb to drop. Oh, and if all that wasn’t bad enough, there’s some missing ectasy pills masquerading as a bottle of valium.
As one can imagine, valium might be in high demand, and the pills fly early and often. If only there were a pool around, they could’ve re-enacted a scene from The Anniversary Party. Speaking of which, Alan Cumming would’ve fit right in. Every funeral needs a skinny, creepily cheerful guy in a skin tight Boy George t-shirt.
Turns out that the little person was a friend of Mark’s father. Not really a big deal. But there is one, ahem…..small….detail. He and Mark’s father were in fact lovers, and now he’s threatening to show all the guests explicit photos of the two of them in coital bliss unless he’s paid 15,000 pounds. Understandably, Mark is a bit pissed at this, and what little balance he has comes crashing down.
It’s clear that a lot of fun was had on this set. Frank Oz’s films always look like a party. They just don’t tend to be very good. This one never really excels in any particular area, but it’s not necessarily bad, either. It does tend to get a bit dull since the film takes place in the same place, with a room full of somber faces in even more somber outfits. Despite the constant hijinks, it’s tempered by the fact that there’s somebody’s dead dad a few feet away. Kinda casts a pall over the hilarity.
The performances still should not be overlooked because there are some true gems. Mattew McFayden, fresh off his turn in Pride and Prejudice, plays the expressionless straight man to a tee. Rupert Graves is perfection as Mark’s oily brother, who thinks a funeral is the perfect place to hit on women. And ofcourse, the aforementioned Peter Dinklage, who manages to wring what little dignity he can out of being crammed into a coffin with his former lover.
Death at a Funeral isn’t perfect. It’s actually pretty middling as far as Brit-coms go. Still, the slapdash pace of the jokes will more than entertain most, and only a few jokes outright bomb. So Frank Oz has been forgiven for The Stepford Wives. Now let’s talk about Bowfinger…..