Sunday, August 26, 2007

How To Die Laughing

Stop. Stop whatever it is that you’re doing right now. Put down the Cheetos, turn off your computer, and go see this movie.

Whether you’re harboring a hidden bit of Anglophilia or have a flaming tattoo of Ricky Gervais (pre-“Night At the Museum,” of course) warmly emblazoned on your chest – this film will have you whooping. (Seriously, people in the audience were whooping.)

Director Frank Oz’s delightfully uproarious comedy of errors, “Death at a Funeral” opens as a melancholy Daniel (Matthew McFayden), alongside wife Jane (Keeley Hawes), hovers over his newly deceased father’s casket. As the undertaker opens the casket, Daniel explains that this is not his father – they seem to have grabbed the wrong box.

For Daniel, the central cog in the wheel that spins over the next hour and a half, this is just the beginning of a very long day.

Nagged by his loving wife, perturbed by his aunts and uncles, and tortured by the shadow of his accomplished-novelist brother Robert (Rupert Graves), Daniel is the passive aggressive scapegoat and reluctant hero of the film.

However, if the movie was to be stolen from him – it would be by Simon (Alan Tudyk) – the fiancé of Daniel’s cousin Martha (Daisy Donovan). After Martha gives Simon what she thinks is valium (but is actually a cocktail of drugs, including acid) Simon’s actions become completely unpredictable. Meanwhile Martha is being hunted by on-the-prowl funeral crasher Justin (Ewen Bremner), and is coming under fire from her father (who looks and acts like a sort of Gene Hackman meets Bill O’Reilly) for her poor choice of fiancé.

With numerous story lines running in parallel, Director Oz deftly switches from line to line – and when the story lines happen to intersect, it’s pure comedic paydirt. Like a slapstick-infused version of Britain’s “The Office” – Oz has taken oddly endowed characters and thrown them into a seemingly normal situation, a funeral. Add a script that is very talky, British, and heavily peppered with the F-word, throw in a handful of drugs masquerading as valium and a homosexual midget – and the result is genius.

While I cannot properly describe all of the goings on of the film, I will say that “Death at a Funeral” is (and this is not a phrase I throw around lightly) one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen.

Aren’t you glad I sent you to see it right now?

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