Neil LaBute earned a Tony Award in 2009 for Reasons to Be Pretty (Best Play), which came after his remake of The Wicker Man (2006) and then Lakeview Terrace (2008) failed to show any beauty at the box office (to be fair, LaBute was never a top earner). As a filmmaker, he’s an acquired taste served raw and bitter. So what attracted LaBute to this update of Death at a Funeral, Frank Oz’s take on a large British family’s trippy comedy of errors during a time of mourning?
The original Funeral’s zany British spirit failed to inspire legions to troop into theaters, but that film’s faithful base might want to return for a second helping, as long as they don’t assume that this is simply an urban audience niche-fest.
While set in the cultural milieu of African-American suburban dwellers in Los Angeles, this remix keeps the melody and the arrangement largely intact with similarly rowdy results.
Intriguingly, LaBute and his cast (featuring a who’s who of black comedians — Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, Kevin Hart, and Tracy Morgan — and comedic performers like Luke Wilson and Loretta Devine and Peter Dinklage as the ace in the hole, playing basically the same character in both films) provide a hilarious cultural mirror for the hijinks that ensue and the reflection, if enough audiences step up for a view, could bring the dead roaring back to life, much like the reinvigorated (and thoroughly raunchy) Danny Glover, who rocks all by himself. Grade: B-plus
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