MGM Studios DVD presents
Death At A Funeral (2007)
"Tea can do many things, Jane, but it can't bring back the dead."- Sandra (Jane Asher)
Stars: Matthew MacFadyen
Other Stars: Rupert Graves, Jane Asher, Keeley Hawes, Daisy Donovan, Andy Nyman, Ewen Bremner, Alan Tudyk, Peter Dinklage, Thomas Wheatley, Kris Marshall, Peter Vaughan, Peter Egan
Director: Frank Oz
MPAA Rating: R for language and drug content
Run Time: 01h:30m:44s
Release Date: 2008-02-26
DVD ReviewHere's a Brit comedy that looks and feels like it could have been adapted from a stage play, what with the rather limited number of sets and a broad sense of the absurd. There's a slapstick texture throughout, as director Frank Oz allows a large ensemble cast to take turns in the limelight, balancing a few interwoven storylines as we witness the increasingly askew proceedings at what should have been a properly somber funeral at a somewhat posh country home.
Struggling writer Daniel (Matthew MacFadyen) has been given the task of organizing a funeral for his well-to-do father, as well as dealing with a grieving mother (Jane Asher) who disapproves of his occasionally nagging wife (Keeley Hawes). To his constant aggravation, Daniel's successful author brother Robert (Rupert Graves) gets the star treatment from everyone, while assorted other colorful friends and relatives arrive and eventually wreak a widening swath very dark comedic havoc, as things go from bad (the wrong coffin arrives) to much worse (blackmail and drugs).
These sort of continually layered absurdities often run the risk of going terribly wrong if not handled properly, but Oz benefits from a solid cast that sells the material well. Firefly's Alan Tudyk slaps on an effective English accent and spends the entire film under the effects of some very strong hallucinogenics, and his array of facial contortions and body language provide some of the best laughs in the film. Andy Nyman runs a close second as the frumpy, put-upon Howard, a man obsessed with a discolored patch of skin on his wrist who ultimately suffers a gross bodily fluid encounter that delivers a wonderful comedic payoff.
As things spiral out of control for Daniel and his family, Oz keeps the cameras moving, bounding from one subplot to another and back. And with a compact runtime of just barely 90 minutes, Death At A Funeral neatly avoids wearing out its welcome, as events unfold quickly and in ways that often are unexpected. And it's not really an issue that many of the characters seem like broad caricatures, because in an environment like this, it makes the interactions theatrically awkward and amusing, with Dean Craig's screenplay providing quite a bit of laugh-out-loud dialogue.
This isn't necessarily a genre I would gravitate towards, but the cast really makes the experience worthwhile.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: MGM has issued Death At A Funeral in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, and the debris-free transfer carries an attractive set of colors, balanced by warm, natural fleshtones. Edges go a bit soft periodically, but facial features appear neatly defined throughout.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track doesn't offer much in the way of flashy effects, but the score has a pleasing, wide feel to it, and voice quality (even with those sometimes pesky accents) is clear and upfront. The occasional discrete rear channel cue is nicely placed, but used sparingly.
A Spanish 2.0 dub is also included.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, Cantonese with remote access
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Lions For Lambs
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by Frank Oz, Dean Craig, Alan Tudyk, Andy Nyman
Extras Review: There are a pair of commentaries available, the first from director Frank Oz, while the second has screenwriter Dean Craig along with actors Alan Tudyk and Andy Nyman. The Oz track has a few quiet spots, but he's open about encouraging his cast to adlib, and requiring screenwriter Dean Craig to be on set in order to help facilitate on-the-fly tweaks. I was, however, a little surprised that the cute opening title sequence animation was only added to pad the runtime to 90 minutes. The Craig/Tudyk/Nyman commentary is looser, and features a lot of laughter and in-jokes. Tudyk is really a hoot.
Also included is a Gag Reel (07m:47s) and a trailer for Lions for Lambs. The disc is cut into 24 chapters, with optional subtitles in English, Spanish, and Cantonese.
Extras Grade: B-
Final CommentsThis slapsticky British comedy from director Frank Oz about the escalating misadventures at a funeral sports a nice ensemble cast, in which Firefly's Alan Tudyk nearly steals the show as a hallucinating relative.
Funny stuff and well worth a rental.
Rich Rosell 2008-02-25