PLOT: Family and friends come together in this comedy for a funeral to put a husband and father to rest. Threats, blackmail, shocking revelations and a heavy dose of drugs put everyone through a day they'll never forget -- though most will want to.
WHO'S IT FOR? It's a mild comedy with James Marsden and Tracy Morgan coming through as the funniest in the cast. Chris Rock isn't given much to do, especially with the laughs, so his die-hard fans won't be thrilled.
EXPECTATIONS: A big cast normally seems to be a detriment instead of a blessing. Sure Oceans 11 and Love Actually exist, but they're the exception to the rule. I wasn't sure what I would get, but having Neil LaBute (Lakeview Terrace, Your Friends and Neighbors) direct did make me curious.
Chris Rock as Aaron: You score Chris Rock as your leader in this ensemble, and then you ask him to play it quiet, and fairly calm? That's not the Rock I know and love. I want Rock ranting. I want him angry. Plus, that's the only acting range Rock has shown us. He can't convince me, or bring me in when he's relaxed ... or normal. Aaron is a wannabe writer. He's somewhat jealous of his role in life. That's all we're given with Aaron, and it's not interesting. Score: 3
Tracy Morgan as Norman: I have no idea what Norman was doing at the funeral. He wasn't related. He's a family friend, but at no point does any family member seem to like him. So, that's odd. Morgan is given the most shockingly hilariously scene, but please keep in mind, poop is involved. Not everyone will be a fan of that moment. Morgan is also given a small window to show he can be different than his real-life persona and his "30 Rock" alter ego. Score: 5
Martin Lawrence as Ryan: Everyone loves Ryan. Except for me. He's the famous author in the family, though I can't really tell what he writes about besides popular trash. He's broke, yet worried about TMZ stalking him. How many authors does that describe? What's worse is Lawrence doesn't know how to play it straight. He just knows how to do fake kung-fu in physical moments while wearing a stupid face. I was once a fan of "The Martin Lawrence Show," but I have now grown tired of this man. Score: 1
Zoe Saldana as Elaine: Elaine is supposedly caught in the middle of Oscar (James Marsden) and Derek (Luke Wilson), but it never feels real or serves a purpose. Saldana's main purpose in this film is to react to Oscar and his drug high. It starts off amusing, but that doesn't last too long. Score: 4
Rest of Cast: Danny Glover plays a grouchy old uncle who actually utters the line, "I'm getting too old for this sh*t." Glover, I'm getting annoyed with you doing that. Loretta Devine plays the mother of Rock and Lawrence, but she's stuck with the two jokes of wanting a grandchild and adoring Ryan. Neither are funny. Peter Dinklage plays the midget with a secret. Actually, am I supposed to say small person? I guess I was supposed to hate this person, but that emotion never came across. Score: 4
TALKING: The funniest line of dialogue probably came with Aaron getting a little worked up (finally) and demanding his wife put panties on at his father's funeral. There was a line by the attendant at the funeral that seemed lost on the audience, but I found it hilarious. After showing Aaron a casket which had the wrong father, the worker proudly says, "I think you'll find everything is in perfect order," when he finally finds the right body. Score: 4
SIGHTS: The physical gags are completely on the shoulders of Marsden and Dinklage. Marsden comes out on top. Otherwise, I felt a little claustrophobic at this funeral because 90 percent of the film takes place at the house. Score: 3
SOUNDS: There's a jazzy little number that accompanies most of the film. It actually makes you feel like there's a quicker pace to the movie than there actually is. Score: 5
BEST SCENE: It was gross. It was disgusting. But when your hand is caught under an old man going to the bathroom, what else could it be besides gross and disgusting? Actually, pretty funny for a few seconds.
ENDING: It's supposed to be funny when the funeral finally ends, then it's supposed to be sincere and heartfelt. They fail, but not as bad as Ryan's desire to be with an 18-year-old.
QUESTIONS: Why did LaBute want to direct this particular film with his track record? Why not give Rock more to do with this starring role?
REWATCHABILITY: No thanks. Even when it makes its run on cable, I will be looking elsewhere for laughs.
It seems Death at a Funeral clung to one idea more than all the others in this ensemble cast. That one idea -- a pill bottle filled with acid -- is funny. The one given the most to do in this film is James Marsden. That will surprise a lot of people heading to this movie. After you take away Marsden and the drugs you're left with a blackmail plot that doesn't generate any laughs. Chris Rock is wasted, Martin Lawrence doesn't work, and Tracy Morgan is close to something, but then he's just covered in poo. Literally, not figuratively.
FINAL SCORE: 4/10