The final half hour of Death at a Funeral gives the film a second wind, so full of (ironically) life and energy, it could go for another 20-minutes. It is nothing but chaos, as if the family’s daughter becoming pregnant, the casket being tipped over, and the wrong body being delivered were not enough already.
Everything falls apart in those last 30-minutes, Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, Tracy Morgan, and Columbus Short all trying to keep things quiet while confused family becomes increasingly distraught over the delays in the proceedings.
This is a remake of a 2007 British effort, now remade with American sensibilities. Fans of more dry humor from across the pond will probably wonder what the fuss is about with the changed timing and focus, while the casual audience in the States will appreciate being tailored too, complete with drugs, midgets, and a handicapped Danny Glover unable to make it to the bathroom without help.
It’s chaos that reigns supreme here, something prevalent in Hollywood comedies. Writer Dean Craig handles both versions, tailoring them to the proper audience. It uses many of the same jokes, line for line in fact, even casting the same actor (Peter Dinklage) and a former Firefly cast member. It’s as respectful a remake as you’ll find, just with a tweaked tone and more familiar cast.
Exposition is handled swiftly, the appropriate and natural dialogue setting the stage for botched romance, creepy romance, longtime relationships rekindled, and the title of the film itself. Through all of it, the film never slows down, even when stuck in traffic while character development is getting everything out of the way.
A second viewing may reveal that the first hour doesn’t have the frantic feel of chaos that is so well handled in the final act. Subdued doesn’t feel like the right term though with so much going on, and dead bodies falling out of caskets because of an inadvertent drug binge. It’s twisted fun.
Sony’s AVC encode for the film is spectacular. After some wonderfully crisp opening credits animation, the first close-up of Chris Rock at 2:27 sets an expectation the rest of the film will live up to. Every actor, from James Marsden at 26:09 to Zoe Saldana at 36:01, all the way up until the end as everyone says good bye, the textures remain firm. Definition is superb, never faltering to softness or filtering.
Colors are vibrant, bringing to life the extensive foliage outside the home. The amount of depth to the image because of the detail, such as the shot poolside at 44:05, is remarkable. Even from the roof, a shot of funeral guests gathering on the lawn at 1:11:55, reveals individual blades of grass despite the height.
Outdoors, a deep contrast is generated from pure whites and inky black levels. Slightly elevated colors add to the image’s vibrancy, and few scenes goes by in the outdoors where this falters. Moving indoors, things are not as firm. The film is quite pale inside the home where the funeral takes place. Black levels sit within a slight gray scale, and the contrast doesn’t carry the same intensity. It’s a fairly drastic change, although the detail remains.
A fine level of film grain is barely noticeable, resolved by the encode without noise or compression issues. Just a hint of aliasing is notable in the early moments on the casket, an issue that disappears later. This is one step shy of reference.
Death at a Funeral holds a perfectly adequate DTS-HD effort, free of any abnormalities or problems. There is not much going on here sonically, the only time the subwoofer becomes engaged is when the body falls out of the casket early. Morbid, but it sounds clean.
Dialogue never becomes spacious or placed anywhere but the center. There is no echo indoors, and the score doesn’t do much to fill the soundfield either. Balance is fine, the music limited anyway, so cranking this up will cause no trouble with the neighbors. Crowds of people also never enter the surrounds even when heavy chatter occurs. It’s sufficient.
A commentary from director Neil LaBute and Chris Rock is followed by a selection of seven deleted/extended scenes that run a bit over seven minutes. A gag reel is brief but amusing at under three minutes, followed by a 20-minute making-of that is little more than your average promo. Family Album is where the actors discuss their characters as if you haven’t see the movie. Death for Real lets the cast discuss their own thoughts on death, rounded off by BD-Live and trailers.
Note: Screen shots appear brighter than the Blu-ray itself. Black levels are significantly better than they are here. We’re looking for a fix so this doesn’t happen in the future.