Death at a Funeral is a constant parade of hilarity but it takes a certain mindset and mood to enjoy the outrageous fun. If you enjoy dark comedies this is one of the most essential ones a film fan can possibly see and it will delight viewers with repeat viewings and is the kind of film worth sharing with friends.
The film opens with Daniel (Matthew Macfadyen). Daniel isn't going to have one of the better days in his life. It's the day of his father's funeral and the funeral home can't even manage to bring the right body with their first try. Then there's the fact he's trying to figure out what to do in the future as he is making plans with his wife Jane (Keeley Hawes) to move out of the family home (where his father had also lived). Then there's the greedy brother Robert (Rupert Graves) who is a popular writer but who doesn't chip in to paying for the funeral -- nor does he help with writing the Eulogy. To make matters even worse there's a hallucinating man named Simon (Alan Tudyk) who accidentally takes some drugs that he thought was Valium. If that wasn't enough, there's even a mysterious man who brings something very surprising into the entire equation of the funeral proceedings.
Matthew Macfadyen is the dramatic backbone of the film. He gives the story much of its heart and dramatic relevance. This actor was barely on my radar until appearing in Joe Wright's Pride & Prejudice adaptation of the Jane Austen literary classic, but afterwards Macfadyen seemed an easy fit for more prominent and recognizable roles. This is one of those examples. He is involved in many comedic moments throughout the film and yet he performs his part with a unique style that understands what each sequence and moment needs most to remain humorous while avoiding the possible pitfalls of standard comedies, where the humor is sometimes so outlandish as to start feeling unintentionally ridiculous.
The biggest scene stealer though is undeniably Alan Tudyk (Firefly), and while he may not bring as much nuanced dramatics to his role, he brings one of the funniest characters ever to the film. It's hard not to laugh in virtually every moment of the movie featuring Tudyk. He performs his character so well it's rather remarkable and the situations this character winds up in are unexpected and strangely nonsensical but definitely humorous.
Frank Oz has made some of the best comedies ever (Bowfinger, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and In & Out among the most memorable) but Death at a Funeral is the best one of them all with an expertly crafted screenplay by Dean Craig that manages to be the perfect fit for Oz's direction, which capably brings out the best of each actor, and properly utilizes the natural surroundings used during filming. The pacing seems excellent as well and this is surely a credit to Oz along with the help of the film's editor Beverley Mills.
The comedy never stops! There are plenty of moments to establish scenes and introduce the characters and these moments are well handled. However, it's the relentless comedic genius the film displays that makes it so memorable and a new classic that will stand the test of time. It's almost hard to believe how funny one film can be sometimes but this is an effort that seems determined to potentially break personal records for the number of quality laugh out loud moments.
The unnecessary remake made in 2010 may have a reasonably sized audience, but anyone who has seen this 2007 original knows that this is a classic film and one worth seeking out. It's an essential film that should be worth a few viewings by any comedy fan, but its appeal will be best felt by dark comedy fans and not necessarily more traditional audiences looking for something a little more mainstream and perhaps a tad less original. Death at a Funeral isn't D.O.A. (Dead on Arrival) but rather an instant classic with comedy that is in full bloom.
MGM brings Frank Oz's Death at a Funeral to Blu-ray with an AVC encoded transfer at 38 MBPS on a 50 GB dual layer disc. The film is presented in the original aspect ratio employed during its theatrical run of 1:85:1. The good news is that this transfer is probably the best the film will ever look and fans should be relatively pleased. The bad news is that it really never manages to become a standout High Definition image. The picture seems softer than one might hope and the lighting seems a bit bright which causes the colors to stand out less and seem a bit washed out at times. The clarity and colors are certainly improved over the DVD release but it isn't a giant leap forward and only diehard fans and those who haven't purchased the film before will really appreciate the boost in picture quality. The film benefits from the upgrade the most during outdoor scenes that focus on the green environment and the surrounding wide shots tend to give a better impression of the differences than the close up shots. Please note that this is a Region A Blu-ray release.
The original English language 5.1 surround sound DTS-HD Master Audio mix is also a nice step up over the DVD release but it lacks the same level of activity or immersion that some fans might have hoped to find. The music score by Murray Gold sounds pleasant during the film's presentation and the audio is a bit clearer yet the surround activity seems minimal and the focus is primarily on the dialogue and thereby the front speakers received much more aural attention. This film reproduces the sound mix nicely but it's not surprising the mix isn't stellar consider the biggest focus is the comedic dynamics of the actors. Spanish and French language tracks are also included with 5.1 surround sound mixes. Subtitles are included for Spanish speakers and the deaf and hard of hearing.
There aren't many video extras to be found on this release (just the original theatrical trailer in high definition and a gag reel in standard definition). The real supplemental features to enjoy are two well made commentary tracks. Commentary with Frank Oz provides insights into the production elements of the film and the technical talk gives viewers a greater understanding of some of Oz's creative decisions and the process of making the entire film. Commentary with Writer Dean Craig and actors Alan Tudyk and Andy Nyman offers up some hilarious moments and the trio makes the track high energy while also discussing some details of the process along the way. Both commentaries are entertaining and informative but those interested primarily in the filmmaking aspects should listen to Oz's while those desiring some more lighthearted chatter might prefer the other commentary more. Both inclusions are worthwhile and engaging to listen to.
Death at a Funeral is a comedic delight that should be seen by any individual who considers themselves a fan of intelligent and well made films, and especially for viewers who truly can appreciate dark and offbeat laughter-inducing movies. The PQ/AQ represents an upgraded experience but diehard fans are the only audience members who will likely want to upgrade from the earlier release. Newcomers should consider this an easy purchase to make though. The extras are identical to the DVD release but two excellent commentary tracks make the supplemental package one to appreciate regardless. Highly Recommended.