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Death at a Funeral (2007) (DQ)


Stars: Matthew Macfadyen, Keeley Hawes, Alan Tudyk, Jane Asher, Peter Vaughan, Daisy Donovan, Peter Dinklage, Andy Nyman, Ewen Bremner, Rupert Graves, Peter Egan

Director: Frank Oz

Once a possible formula for a gentler brand of British farce, this uncomfortable project, shot in very cheap-looking colour, proves an uneasy fit for today's comedy with its torrents of swearing and (quite literally) toilet humour.

A family gathers at a country house for the funeral of one of its patriarchs. Son Daniel (Macfadyen), an aspiring writer, lives in the shadow of brother Robert (Graves), a successful novelist who arrives first-class from New York, but unable to pay for his half of the funeral.

Neither is able to cope with their father's gay lover (Dinklage) who enters the scene intent on blackmail.

Meanwhile, cousin Martha (Donovan) battles both to keep the lid on her solicitor fiance (Tudyk), who has accidentally swallowed a hallucinogenic drug, and fend off the advances of leering Justin (Bremner), best friend of hypochondriac Howard (Nyman), who badgers everyone with his imaginary ailments.

With a little gentle tweaking, in fact, and the removal of more F-words than in a Gordon Ramsey show, this could almost be a vehicle for old UK comic Norman Wisdom, with the Nyman role expanded to fit. But the cast here seems awkward and under-rehearsed - at any rate, no one is especially effective, although Vaughan, a survivor from the Wisdom era, enjoys himself as a cantankerous old uncle just busting to go to the loo.

There are one or two passing attempts at skewed humour - 'Tea can do many things, but it can't bring back the dead,' intones grieving widow Asher - but they're soon submerged in the scatological whole. Not quite the 'worst film of the year' thought by one of my colleagues at the preview screening, perhaps, but not very good either.

David Quinlan

USA 2007. UK Distributor: Verve Pictures (MGM). Colour by deluxe.
90 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 1, Swearing 2.

Review date: 29 Oct 2007