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"Death at a Funeral"

A Film Review by Gary Chew

GARY CHEW/Sacramento

How is it one can go to a summer blockbuster starring lots of high-dollar talent with special effects that detach the retinas and digitized quadruple mega sound tracks that damn near puncture eardrums, yet still be as interesting as a bar of soap?

The perfect candidate for a movie that doesn't do any of that would be "Death at a Funeral," a new British comedy directed by Frank Oz. In fact, most of the actors in this indefatigable farce, written by Dean Craig, aren't very well known on this side of the Atlantic. "Funeral" has the look of a modest to low budget movie and even the print (the one I saw) looked a little faded. Moreover, the audio dialogue wasn't particularly sharp to the ear which may have been microphone techniques used on the shoot or a not-so-good sound system in the theater.

Yet, "Death at a Funeral" is so much more engaging than a bar of soap (or big summertime blockbuster), it isn't even funny---a funny way of saying this picture is very, very funny.

Yes, you guessed it: It's that fundamental ingredient any good movie must have: a well-written script! Did I mention that it's well-directed, too? Mr. Oz knows his way around entertainment as a puppeteer, actor and director, plus possessing that certain something Brits always seem to have when it comes to making people laugh. If the late, great Peter Sellers could've been cast in this "Funeral," the film would surely have been fatally funny.

Making sure a recently departed patriarch of a proper English family is sent off to his final reward in the appropriate manner, the filmgoer finds him/herself engulfed in riotous chaos. It's almost enough to make one forget about being creeped out by coffins and cadavers.

Daisy Donovan, Andy Nyman and Alan Tudyk

Daisy Donovan, Andy Nyman and Alan Tudyk

The son living in England is sort of bland. His smart-ass brother is a successful novelist who now resides in New York City. Both are on scene for confrontation. Their cousin has brought her future husband to the funeral who accidentally ingested an hallucinogenic designer drug an hour earlier. The cousin is so wanting her fiancée to make a good impression on her stuffy father (the deceased's brother) at the service. And who is the four foot tall mysterious funeral guest? No one in the family has ever seen him before! The little man wants a private audience with the bland son prior to the event to pass on very secret information about the decedent that, when learned, must be kept from all attendees at all costs.

Well, the bare and painful truth wins out in the end. And amid all the hilarious confusion and suspense, there's even a heart-rending homily that concludes the funeral service that has not a laugh in it. Nice touch.

Oh yes, another item to report: I am not a fan of scatological humor. I just don't think it's funny. But the scatological humor in this movie is funny---very funny. The rating is R.

And, finally, to other letters of the alphabet: All the "I's" are dotted and the "T's" crossed in the zany (I enjoy using the word "zany") "Death at a Funeral." May all of us have so much fun at our own.

Preview "Death at a Funeral"

Official "Death at a Funeral" site.
Opens at the Circle Cinema Sept. 14.
Watch Yahoo Movies  for Tulsa showtimes.
Gary Chew can be reached at garychew@comcast.net
Copyright © 2007, Gary Chew. All rights reserved.

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