Check this one out before seeing the American version coming out on April 16th!
1 Disc Widescreen Edition (2007)
The original “Death at a Funeral” was directed by Frank Oz and written by Dean Craig. This story has the feel of a great play where an ensemble cast of ridiculous Brits try to make the best of a bad situation at their patriarch’s funeral when many things go awry and a midget attempts to blackmail them.
This is a zany farce for certain. There are many familiar British faces and the situations just go from bad to worse and from worse to horrifyingly funny. A comedy of manners combined with pure slapstick in a funeral that seems unable to be completed between fighting and public nudity and mixed up corpses. There’s a great build in exposition in the first act, an increase in action in the second, and then all out looney by the third with nice closure. It really reminds me of a great ensemble farce play like “Noises Off” that was made into a movie in 1992 featuring Michael Caine, Carol Burnett, and Christopher Reeve (but I recommend seeing that live if you can because it’s a lot funnier that way).
The best stand-out performance is by Alan Tudyk whom you might remember as the pirate in “Dodgeball” and he plays Simon. His English accent is wonderful, so convincing that I didn’t know he was actually American till I listened to the commentary. His character is trying really hard to impress his girlfriend’s father and is so nervous going to this funeral that he takes Valium to calm down.
Unfortunately, it is not Valium but a hallucinogenic drug and he spends the entire day getting progressively more spaced out and behaving ridiculously until he ends up naked on the roof! His facial expressions are so well done that you can almost imagine what his character is seeing when he is staring at the widow’s hat. He does lots of great little bits ranging from subtle to very intense and it sells the situation really well.
Matthew Macfadyen plays Daniel, the responsible brother who stayed home and took care of their father before he passed. He is trying so hard to stay respectful and calm throughout the day and it’s a big chore to be one of the few straight characters amongst a bunch of looneys including Peter Dinklage, the dwarf attempting to blackmail the family and Andy Nyman, an insecure hypochondriac care taking for Uncle Alfie (Peter Vaughan) while general screwing things up for the others with pettiness.
It also has one of the English fellows from “Love Actually” Kris Marshall so a friend and I kept quoting back and forth whenever he came onscreen, “You do not have a cute British accent!” “Yes I DO!” There are many great characters and performances, but it’s really the group working together that makes it work so well. A pure delight with lots of laughs and a bit of heart and I highly recommend seeing it BEFORE the remake version because from what I’ve seen of the trailer, they are using the same jokes almost word for word with an urban flair and if it doesn’t work out well, I’d rather you see this one to begin with.
There is audio commentary with director Frank Oz. The director alone speaks a lot about how it was difficult to even out the weather over different scenes and how the indoor shoot and outdoor shoot were an hour away so someone running indoors really did the second part of the scene five weeks later. It is a love fest about the actors, but he really focuses on the talent of Peter Dinklage and his deliberate choice to only mention his height in dialogue once. It’s a bit stiff but if you enjoy hearing about how many cameras were used in certain shots and why and how an actress’ pregnancy was covered up, then by all means listen.
There is also audio commentary with screenwriter Dean Craig and actors Alan Tudyk who played Simon and Andy Nyman who played Howard. Of the two commentaries, this is the more entertaining, mostly because it’s a group of people chattering back and forth, two of whom are funny actors and the other being the source of the funny material for the film. Alan is American and talks about the joys of learning to drive sitting on the right side on the other side of the road. There is a lot of talk about how certain jokes came about and what was written and what was improvised on the day.
He mentions one scene where he actually was high because he was experimenting for research for the role and didn’t know he would be filming on that day. The difficulties of making it through certain scenes with a straight face and unconscious hand movements are explored in more depth and it’s a pretty fun listen. It is also verified that yes, Alan was completely and utterly naked for the shoot and actually grew accustomed to it and bored after a while.
The gag reel is very funny, lots of line flubs and inability to keep the crazy grin on or talk about the parking space without laughing. You get to see extended takes of Alan Tudyk’s performance of being drugged out which are very funny as well. As with all gag reels, it clearly demonstrates how much fun the movie was to make and as a result, makes you feel included in the fun.