I was informed by reliable sources that Death at a Funeral is a comedy, which, if true, means that I've been misusing the word "comedy" for years now. For example, the following events form central plot points in this film: a man is drugged and beaten; a man attempts to rape a woman; a man receives a spray of feces to his face.
So there's an assault, a rape and a poop-facing, all of which are meant to be funny. I suppose, in a sad, existential, c'est la vie sort of way, one could laugh at these things, but not because these things are humorous. No one who has been poop-faced would regard it as an economical way to arouse laughter. And yet, the makers of Death at a Funeral expect us to enjoy ourselves while watching an unjustified poop-facing.
Which is especially weird, since the director of this film is Neil LaBute. LaBute has made some disturbing films, like In the Company of Men and Your Friends and Neighbors, both of which deal with disturbing issues like assault and rape, but neither of those films presents those topics with the aim of producing joyous guffaws.
And yet, with Death at a Funeral, Mr. LaBute willingly received a paycheck for filming a scene in which a very short man displays pictures of himself engaging in wheelbarrow-style anal intercourse with a deceased tall person. This is proof that, while money cannot buy love, it can buy dignity.
Oddly, this film is a remake of a British film that came out just three years ago. Peter Dinklage, who plays the very short man, is the only main holdover from the original film. Apparently, Mr. Dinklage is the only actor on Earth who is capable of portraying a person of small stature. Otherwise, the pale-skinned English performers of the original have been largely replaced by African Americans, including Martin Lawrence, who, it turns out, is still alive.
But that's only one of the many surprises in Death at a Funeral. The story begins with the dapper Aaron (Chris Rock) awaiting the delivery of his father's body at the family home. However, when the body arrives, it is not that of Aaron's father, but instead, a man of Asian ancestry. Apparently, a mix-up of this sort is hilarious, or at least that's what I was led to believe based on the contextual clues. So dead Asians are funny. Who knew?
From there, things go downhill as the mistaken-body gag is joined by a mistaken-pill gag, when one of the funeral-goers, played by James Marsden, accidentally ingests LSD when he meant to take valium. As in all films featuring hallucinogens, this leads to declarations of love, staring at flowers and nudity. So if you want to see James Marsden's ass, and you don't care if anything funny happens while you wait to see it, Death at a Funeral is the film for you.
Lawrence plays Aaron's younger brother, Ryan, who's a New York Times best-selling author and a fan of statutory rape. (Comedy!) As such, when he spots a young high school student (Regine Nehy) at the funeral, he attempts to copulate with her. While she is initially unwilling, he continues to woo her, as he has nothing better to do since he's spending the day at his father's funeral.
Meanwhile, Uncle Russell (Danny Glover) appears in a wheelchair and carrying a cane. It's unclear why he has a cane when he's in a wheelchair. He isn't using it for walking, but he does seem to like to dip it into food products and poke it into various persons' delicate areas. So it's not an assistance cane; it's more of a mean-spirited comedy cane.
It is Uncle Russell who provides the poop for the film's poop-facing sequence. It seems odd that Danny Glover would allow himself to be used as a poop factory for an extended poop joke, but I don't pretend to understand all of the things that money and fame can make a man do.
Other stars of some repute wander through the Three's Company-esque subplots of this film. Notably, Zoe Saldana appears as Beautiful Woman Who Is Dating a White Man, and Ron Glass plays Dad Who Is Upset That His Daughter Is Dating This White Man. Also present are Tracy Morgan, Keith David, Loretta Devine, Regina Hall and the always gruelingly awful Luke Wilson.
Wilson is the only one who deserves to be in this movie, and I hope he winds up in the Southeast Asian remake, which will, no doubt, feature a mix-up wherein a dead Pakistani man is accidentally delivered to a Bangladeshi household.