Death at a Funeral (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
August 4, 2010 by Dennis Amith
A gut-bursting, embarrassing, laugh-out loud comedy! If you are in the mood for a fun and entertaining film on Blu-ray, definitely check out “Death at a Funeral”!
Images courtesy of © 2010 Screen Gems, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: Death at a Funeral
FILM RELEASE DATE: 2010
DURATION: 92 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1), English, French (Double au Quebec) and Portuguest 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish and English (Description Track) 5.1 Dolby Digital
COMPANY: Screen Gems/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RATED: R (For Language, Drug Content and Some Sexual Humor)
RELEASE DATE: August 10, 2010
Directed by Neil LaBute
Written by Dean Craig
Executive Producer: Dean Craig, Glenn S. Gainor, Jim Tauber
Producer: William Horberg, Sidney Kimmel, Laurence Malkin, Chris Rock, Share Stallings
Co-Producer: Josh Kesselman, Nicolas Stern
Associate Producer: Trae Ireland
Music by Christophe Beck
Cinematography by Rogier Stoffers
Edited by Tracey Wadmore-Smith
Casting by Victoria Thomas
Production Design by Jon Gary Steele
Art Direction by Chris Cornwell
Set Decoration by Dena Roth
Costume Design by Maya Lieberman
Chris Rock as Aaron
Martin Lawrence as Ryan
Tracy Morgan as Norman
Regina Hall as Michelle
Luke Wilson as Derek
Zoe Saldana as Elaine
Columbus Short as Jeff
Kevin Hart as Brian
James Marsden as Oscar
Danny Glover as Uncle Russell
Keith David as Reverend Davis
Loretta Devine as Cynthia
Peter Dinklage as Frank
Ron Glass as Duncan
Regine Nehy as Martina
Bob Minor as Edward
Death at a Funeral is a hilarious day in the life of an American family come together to put a beloved husband and father to rest. As mourners gather at the family home, shocking revelations, festering resentments, ugly threats, blackmail and a misdirected corpse unleash lethal and riotous mayhem.
A gut-bursting, laugh-out loud comedy. If you are in the mood for a fun and entertaining film, definitely check out “Death at a Funeral”!
In 2007, director Frank Oz and screenwriter Dean Craig were responsible for the critically acclaimed British black comedy film “Death at a Funeral”.
In 2009, producer/actor/comedian Chris Rock along with director Neil LaBute (“The Wicker Man”, “Nurse Betty”, “Lakeview Terrace”) and original screenwriter for the British comedy Dean Craig went to work on an American adaptation of the film. And in 2010, the film was released in theaters and made over $48 million in the box office.
The film revolves around the Barnes family, especially on the eldest son Aaron (played by Chris Rock) who must prepare for his father’s eulogy. As the family are coming to pay their respects at Aaron’s fathers funeral, things do not go exactly as planned and trouble breaks loose at the funeral.
The film features various storylines which include:
Aaron Barnes (played by Chris Rock) and Michelle Barnes (played by Regina Hall) – Michelle really wants a baby and will do all it takes to get pregnant. Even if that means trying to get some sex from Aaron on the day of her father-in-law’s funeral. Aaron is a writer who tries to maintain order at the house and was taking care of things and now he must find a way to deal with the challenges that are taking place at the funeral.
Ryan Barnes (played by Martin Lawrence) – Ryan is the younger brother of Aaron and is a successful writer who is known for his work and gets all the attention from everyone. But behind-the-scenes, he is a man that has lot a lot of money and is broke. So, when he makes his return to the funeral and Aaron is expecting Ryan to take care of the funeral costs, Ryan is expecting his older brother to shoulder the financial responsibility. He also has his eyes on a teenager a the funeral.
Cynthia Barnes (played by Loretta Devine) – The family matriarch who is emotional because of her husband’s death and the only way she can be happy is if she has a grandchild and repeatedly emphasizes this to her daughter-in-law Michelle.
Elaine Barnes (played by Zoe Saldana), Oscar (played by James Marsden) and Jeff Barnes (played by Columbus Short) – Elaine is a cousin of Aaron and is dating Oscar, a man that her father dislikes. Oscar wants to make a great impression on Elaine’s father but is stressed out. So, Elaine gives him some Valium pills that her brother Jeff had in his apartment. But what Elaine doesn’t know is that the pill is actually a hallucinogenic concoction he created at pharmacy school and now Oscar will be literally drugged out for the next eight hours. Elaine and her younger brother Jeff try to make sure Oscar doesn’t mess things up in front of her father and also makings sure he doesn’t mess up the funeral.
Duncan (played by Ron Glass) – The strict father of Elaine and Jeff who is there for his brother’s funeral. He does not like Elaine’s current boyfriend Oscar and wishes that she be with her ex-boyfriend Derek.
Norman (played by Tracy Morgan) and Derek (played by Luke Wilson) – Norman is the odd family friend who is worried about the splotchiness that has shown up on his hands and arm and is worried he has a major disease. His friend Derek had a past relationship with Elaine Barnes and is showing up to the funeral under the request of Elaine’s father in order to get back with her. The two are responsible in making sure Uncle Russell gets to the funeral.
Uncle Russell (played by Danny Glover) – The crotchety uncle who does nothing but talk smack about the family members.
Frank Lovett (played by Peter Dinklage) – A little person who had a secret sexual relationship with Aaron’s father. Because Aaron promised to take care of him, now Frank wants $30,000 and is demanding Aaron to pay him or else he will reveal his sexual photos with his father to Aaron’s mother.
Reverend Davis (played by Keith David) – The Reverend who is trying to get the funeral started and is growing frustrated as it keeps getting delayed.
“Death at a Funeral” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1). Another excellent HD release from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. There is a lot of detail in this film, some details…some people may feel it’s a bit too detailed (ie. the poop scene). But there is a lot of detail in this Blu-ray release, from the skin pigments on the actors, the detail on the coffin and overall surroundings, the vibrant colors with the reds/browns indoors to the colors outdoors, blacks are nice and deep, there is a good amount of grain that can be seen in the film and I saw no DNR or compression artifacts.
Picture quality is absolutely solid for this release!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Death at a Funeral” is featured in English, French and Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA and Spanish/English (Audio Description Track) Dolby Digital 5.1. Aside from the music shown at the opening and ending credits, “Death at a Funeral” is a dialogue-driven film that is mostly front and center channel driven. There really wasn’t anything that stood out, audio-wise especially for the surround channels. If anything, it’s all about the dialogue and the dialogue on the lossless soundtrack is crystal clear. I detected no hiss or any audio problems while watching the film.
Subtitles are presented in English, English SDH, French, Portuguese and Spanish.
“Death at a Funeral” comes with the following special features (in standard and high definition, English stereo and with English, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles):
- movieIQ™+sync and BD-Live connect you to real-time information on the cast, music, trivia and more while watching the movie!
- Commentary with Director Neil LaBute and Chris Rock – Very informative commentary by Director Neil LaBute and producer/actor Chris Rock. LaBute and Rock break down the scene and gives us detail on the making of the film, working with various talent, Michael Jackson references and more.
- Deleted Scenes – (7:13) Featuring eight deleted scenes from the film.
- Gag Reel – (2:37) The outtakes from the film.
- Death at a Funeral: Last Rites, Dark Secrets – (20:11) The cast and the producers talk about remaking the popular British comedy for an American audience. The cast talk about working with other cast members and working with director Nick LaBute.
- Family Album – (10:59) The cast talk about their characters and their relation to other characters in the film.
- Death For Real – (5:55) The cast of the film talk about funerals and death.
Typically, when a popular foreign film receives its adaptation for the US, there are drastic changes. So, bad are the changes, most of the time we ask why these films bother being remade. But with “Death of a Funeral”, it’s a remake that works and for some, it may prove to be much better than the original.
Aside from the obvious difference of the film spotlighting a Black family in mourning, the film still manages to capture the essence of the original but also making the humor much more accessible for American audiences. For its main storyline, both director LaBute and Chris Rock has said that they kept true to the original without many storyline changes.
With that being said, it’s understandable if people are wondering why there was a remake of a perfectly well-done British film for the US. And the answer is that although there are a good number of us who will seek out films from the UK and also from other countries, the majority of Americans will not. I can easily remember the same argument being made when BBC America’s “Coupling” and “The Office” was going to receive its US adaptation and many felt these remakes were pointless. And we are seeing it today with fans wondering why there will be an American remake of the show “The Vicar of Dibley”. It’s understandable why these passionate fans of the British comedies were crying foul of why the US needed to do in their words “another pointless remake”. While the American version of “The Coupling” fizzled, the American version of “The Office” evolved into something different from the original British series and became a highly-rated television hit.
So, here we are with a 2010 remake of the popular 2007 film and yes…the original version is a fantastic film but I’ve gone past the “Why do we need a remake?” phase after seeing what has happened with American adaptations of Japanese and Korean horror or dramatic films. And I’ve read enough message postings by fans of the original “Death at the Funeral” panning this American version. But keeping an opening mind and watching this film, I can easily say that I found the 2010 version of “Death at a Funeral” to be a film that is capable of gut-bursting, laugh-out loud moments.
I remember reading Roger Ebert’s review of the film and saying that he laughed all the way through the film (and he also enjoyed the original) and I have to agree. I came in to this film with low expectations because I enjoyed the original but while watching the film, I couldn’t stop laughing and I had the feeling the American humor and the crazy antics that take place in the film would go well with the audience.
The fact is that many of us have experienced funerals and how tense they are. But when things go wrong, it’s like a trainwreck that you just can’t keep your eyes off of it. In this case, seeing this family having to go through crazy and embarrassing situations from the moment Aaron (Chris Rock) opens the casket to find a deceased Asian man, you can’t help but laugh and know that you are in for a wild ride. But as much as I love Chris Rock’s comedy, his character was the most subdued as he is the man who must stay in control. It’s the other supporting talent around him who shine on screen and this cast did a pretty good job.
From Aaron’s wife Michelle wanting to have sex quickly in order to get pregnant an hour or so before the actual funeral, Aaron’s brother Ryan trying to be suave and cool despite having problems in his personal life but then you have the extended family with Elaine and her new boyfriend Oscar. Personally, this is one role in which I never expected James Marsden to play (as the accidentally drugged out boyfriend), let alone be naked in front of so many people (according to Marsden, he was gullible and forgot to ask for a closed set and thus, he was nude in front of hundreds of people during the shooting of his nude scene) and you know when you see Oscar show up onscreen, you know that nothing but trouble will be happening. It’s one thing to know that you will be getting laughs from Rock, Lawrence and Morgan but I wasn’t expecting to laugh so much during Marsden’s appearances in the film.
And then there is Tracy Morgan who improvised a lot of his scenes and the things that come out of his mouth is just crazy and hilarious. Yes, he comes up with crazy, yet stupid dialogue but it works with the character quite effectively. Especially the interaction between Morgan’s character Norman and the crotchety Uncle Russell, which Danny Glover does a great job playing that role. And the bathroom scene is just a gross but crazy scene that got me laughing and feeling gross about the scene all at once.
And then you have the appearance of Frank (the gay lover of Aaron’s father), played by Peter Dinklage who was in the original film. Who is definitely much more hilarious this time around. Overall, you have a solid cast in the 2010 version of “Death at a Funeral”. Everyone played their parts exceptionally well and you can’t help but laugh!
One thing where Ebert hit it right square on the nail in his review was his comment, “British actors are rightly known for their skill, and there were some good ones in the 2007 version of the same Dean Craig screenplay. But playing proper upper-crust characters tends to restrain them. The family in “Death at Funeral” is obviously wealthy, but loose–more human. Their emotions are closer to the surface, and these actors work together like a stock company.”
I happen to agree. With American audiences, people relate to characters like them and in this case, these are not upper-class characters. You have Aaron worrying about the financial situation of paying for the funeral (which many American families have to face) and each of these talents work quite well with each other and as Chris Rock has mentioned in one of the featurettes, it was important for him to hire a director that he could trust for the film and director Nick Labute did a good job in making a film for the American audience. And the fact that you had the original writer for the British film, Dean Craig, involved is a major plus.
As for the Blu-ray release, “Death at a Funeral” has a pretty solid commentary by director LaBute and Chris Rock and also a good number of short featurettes interviewing the cast about their characters and working with each other. Also, this Blu-ray release is consistent with a lot of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment releases of awesome PQ, solid blacks and no video anomalies. This is a solid film featuring wonderful picture quality, the film is not exactly the kind of film you would be hearing major utilization of the surround channels but dialogue is absolutely clear and understandable.
Overall, “Death at a Funeral” is one of those films that you love for its embarrassing and crude humor but also I can understand if fans of the original have a hard time accepting this new film because of how different it is and the feeling that there is no reason for a audiences to watch a remake. But having said I enjoyed the original a lot, having watched “Death at a Funeral” (201o) was such a fun and entertaining experience, I felt that I was laughing out loud throughout the film and that’s a good thing.
A gut-bursting, embarrassing, laugh-out loud comedy. If you are in the mood for a fun and entertaining film, definitely check out “Death at a Funeral”!
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