The premise is simple: an English family and their close friends gather for the funeral of their beloved patriarch. Before you can say Britcom, stalwart son Daniel (Matthew MacFadyen) can’t escape the shadow of his successfully published brother Robert (Rupert Graves), and poor Martha (Daisy Donovan) and her bumbling fiancée (Alan Tudyk) must dodge her ex-lover, his tactless sidekick and her domineering dad.
The script penned by Dean Craig spins somewhat of a new twist by transforming normally climatic comic moments into first act points of departure, but the quick start can’t disguise the fact that far too much of the humor throughout is either boringly familiar or achingly predictable.
What saves Funeral from an untimely death is a wonderful cast that works overtime to make what’s old (kinda) new again. Give credit to director Frank Oz for orchestrating a magnificent ensemble that keeps the film grounded even while they must jump through impossibly high hoops to teach old gags new tricks.
As conventional and un-Oz as it may seem, Death at a Funeral still conjures a madcap, naïve levity that makes watching it almost as fun as the filmmaker and his cast had making it. Almost.
Death at a Funeral releases in select theaters Aug. 17.