Death at a Funeral (2007) (Blu-ray)
Directed by Frank Oz
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 91 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish
MSRP: $ 19.99
Release Date: June 7, 2011
Review Date: June 12, 2011
There is something quite unique that happens when a clever, farcical script is put into the hands of great British performers (and a couple of Americans) and coupled with a wonderful director who doesn’t feel the need to overplay the winning hand he’s holding. It’s happened before with a memorable comedy like Mike Newell’s Four Weddings and a Funeral and that kind of high class wit and dry slapstick farce is once again on hysterical display in Frank Oz’s Death at a Funeral, the original 2007 film that features a sterling cast in yet another British movie that can find outrageous fun in even something as somber as funeral rites.
On the day of his beloved father’s funeral service being held on his dad’s impressive country estate, Daniel (Matthew Macfadyen) finds himself having to cope with innumerable upsets and interruptions. First the mortuary brings the wrong body to the house, but that’s only the beginning of the problems which also involve a recalcitrant brother (Rupert Graves) who won’t pay for half the funeral, an ornery, elderly uncle who doesn’t have patience for anyone or anything that disrupts his routine, a Valium bottle actually loaded with a powerful hallucinogen that keeps floating around the gathering, an uninvited guest (Peter Dinklage) who has a surprising story to tell and some demands that need to be met, and innumerable interpersonal rivalries which continually disrupt the seriousness of the memorial service.
Dean Craig’s script is one of those masterful affairs that feature one outrageous thing after another played completely straight by the actors, all of which keep building to climaxes continually throughout the film. Each character’s storyline, whether individual like the geeky Justin’s (Ewen Bremner) infatuation with the engaged-to-another Martha (Daisy Donovan) while her intended Simon (Alan Tudyk) goes on his first acid trip courtesy of a faux Valium tablet or group situations such as the brothers dealing with the strange funeral interloper or hypochondriac Howard (Andy Nyman) and would be drug manufacturer Troy (Kris Marshall) dealing with the cantankerous Uncle Alfie (Peter Vaughan) as well as the other lunatic happenings of the afternoon, keeps laughs flowing at a merry clip, all helped exceedingly with director Frank Oz’s assistance through his nimble pacing and the wonderful way that jokes flow naturally out of situations rather than being telegraphed from a mile away (one of the film’s most hilarious moments: the director explores in detail the father’s office once the stranger’s bombshell is dropped). From his years as both a director and performer, Oz realizes that comedy like this must be played without a wink at the audience. Their discomfort and shock at what’s happening open the floodgates of laughter for the viewer, portals through which some of the heartiest and most earned laughs of the decade flow forth.
Matthew Macfadyen has the most difficult job of playing straight man to all of the lunacy going on around him, and he’s solidly up to the task. Stealing the film, however, is Alan Tudyk who combines his limber physicality with his rubbery facial expressions as the guest innocently at the mercy of LSD and spending about half of the film in his birthday suit discreetly and charmingly framed by director Oz right to the edge of titillation. Andy Nyman’s exasperated Britisher also earns lots of laughs with expert physical comedy and manic facial expressions. As always, Peter Dinklage is an asset to any production playing the wild card in the mix, the person whose secrets jumpstart a barrage of comic situations. The ladies of the cast are given much less interesting things to do though Jane Asher’s widow has a number of acerbic lines which the actress delivers with the expected dry aplomb.
The film has been framed at its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is delivered in 1080p using the AVC codec. Sharpness is quite good for most of the film’s running time though there are a couple of scenes where one questions the focus puller’s expertise as faces seem soft that shouldn’t be. Color density is true and solid though flesh tones seem to be a little too much on the pink side. The transfer is remarkably clean and without problems otherwise. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is typically for a comedy mostly front-centered. The delightful music score by Murray Gold does get a nice surround treatment, but otherwise the rear channels are barely used, and the LFE channel gets the night off. Dialogue has been crisply recorded and resides in the center channel.
There are two audio commentaries on the disc. Director Frank Oz goes solo for his effort happily describing the marvelous work by cast and crew with nary a negative word to be said. The second commentary brings screenwriter Dean Craig and actors Alan Tudyk and Andy Nyman in for a fun-filled audio track which likewise praises all but has a fair number of backstage stories to tell. Both are worth a listen.
The film’s gag reel, which shows the herculean efforts it took for these brilliant actors to keep a straight face while playing this high comic material, is as hilarious as the film itself and runs for 7 ¾ minutes in 480i.
The movie’s theatrical trailer is in 1080p and runs for 2 ¼ minutes.
4.5/5 (not an average)
A delicious mix of high and low comedy with that unbeatably dry British sense of humor distinguishes the original 2007 version of Death at a Funeral. If your only exposure to the material is the more recent 2010 Americanized remake, you owe it to yourself to see the original version which is 91 minutes of pure, unadulterated hilarity. Highly recommended!