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Death at a Funeral
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that although this British farce is a comedy, its adult themes -- mortality, mourning, in-law stress -- probably won't appeal to kids and younger teens. Which isn't to say that the grown-up characters act much like adults. In fact, they behave at their very worst (which makes for funny setups, but hardly stellar examples for impressionable young viewers). Sibling rivalry, sexual secrets, drug use, and more are all in the mix, and there's also plenty of profanity ("f--k," "s--t," "wanker") and a couple of shots of a bare butt (in a nonsexual way).
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Apropos of its title, DEATH AT A FUNERAL opens on a somber note, with a hearse pulling up to an ivy-clad house where a grieving son, Daniel (Matthew Macfadyen), awaits. A casket is carried into the house, where the seriousness is dismissed when it's opened ... and Daniel says, "Pardon me. That's not my father." So begins the uproarious ride that director Frank Oz offers in this hilarious -- though far from perfect -- British comedy. An ensemble picture by virtue of its premise -- there's a funeral, and everyone's showing up, personal baggage in tow -- the film brings together many characters, all of whom, in the end, are transformed by the not-so-solemn event. Among them are Daniel's wife, Jane (Keeley Hawes), who sees his father's death as a chance for her and Daniel to finally escape her in-laws' home; Robert (Rupert Graves), Daniel's much more successful (and as a result, self-obsessed) novelist brother; and Howard (Andy Nyman), a hypochondriac schlub whose proximity to death only accentuates his fears. There's also Martha (Daisy Donavan) and her fiancé, Simon (Alan Tudyk), who's worried about being around his future father-in-law and inadvertently takes a tranquilizer that's apparently something else. Plus foul-mouthed Uncle Alfie (Peter Vaughan), who's incontinent, and Martha's ex, Justin (Ewan Bremmer), who's pining for her. And then there's Peter (Peter Dinklage), the stranger who shows up with an atomic secret to share.
Is it any good?
With so many eccentrics in attendance, each one loaded to the gills with quirks, Death at a Funeral is an embarrassment of comedic riches -- but it could have benefited from some editing. The laughter literally never ends, even when it's forced. The scatological bits, though reliably laugh-getting, seem grossly out of place and, worse, unnecessary. If Oz had cut an oddball character or two and a few extra gags, he'd have had a classic. That said, near the end -- when yet another twist is thrown in for good measure -- even resistant moviegoers will be pummeled into submission. You can't help but laugh, and out loud.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what happens when relatives gather for rituals -- anniversaries, weddings, birthdays, or, in this case, funerals. Why do they seem to bring out the worst in people (though everyone's supposed to be on their best behavior)? Is the atmosphere at these events really that pressured? Or does mayhem like this really only happen in the movies? What are funerals really for? How are they usually depicted in movies? How is this different?
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