Potty humor seems to be in fashion these days given the recent releases of Superbad, Knocked Up, and Balls of Fury. Ever since Ben Stiller underwent an agonizing wardrobe/lower-body-part malfunction in There’s Something about Mary, crass, lewd humor has been in high demand from audiences of many ages – I’m sad to say. It seems a comedy is not a comedy these days if it doesn’t include at least one reference to the secretion of bodily fluids. Death at a Funeral is a parody of British elitism however it throws in couple of crude, below-the-belt jokes, literally.
Death at a Funeral stars fetching newcomer Matthew MacFadyen—the actor that caught my eye with a riveting portrayal of the supercilious Mr. Darcy in the 2005 version of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Here MacFadyen stars as Daniel, the long-suffering, docile son of the deceased Edward and newly widowed Sandra (Jane Asher). We learn he has lived enviously in the shadow of his supremely talented author brother, Robert (Rupert Graves), who has just flown in from his posh New York City pad only to back out of his commitment to doing the eulogy and suck up the sickening adoration from his doting family members thus rubbing more salt in Daniel’s wounds.
We also meet family cousin Martha (Daisy Donovan) and boyfriend Simon (Alan Tudyk) who inadvertently consumes a designer drug manufactured by Martha’s brother Troy (Kris Marshall). Howard (Andy Nyman) is a neurotic cousin who transports his freaky friend Justin (Ewen Bremner) and his indomitable Uncle Alfie (Peter Vaughn) to the funeral. Many of the characters’ arcs follow the typical formula we’ve seen often in tales of unhinged elites. We follow many of the characters from their initial frenzied uptight states to where they quickly come loose and unraveled, cracked and unglued, plunging into a dizzying hysteria.
Amidst the mayhem appears a polarizing little figure—Peter (Peter Dinklage) who, unbeknownst to Daniel and the rest of the family, was a “good friend” of Edward’s. Apparently Edward and Peter documented their relationship with revealing photos and Peter is now demanding financial compensation. The storyline with Dinklage finally thrusts this so-far lackluster parody into second gear and the comedy begins to take off. What seemed to be pointless, dead-end gags set up in the first half of the film surprisingly pay themselves off in the end through an explosive side-splitting climax.
Alan Tudyk is hilarious in everything he does. His roles in 28 Days and Knocked Up come to mind. However screenwriter Dean Craig does not provide him with enough material to work with here. He’s given the predictable, deranged guy-in-the-buff type scenes which is cute initially. Director Frank Oz evidently believes that the sight of a delusional, naked man on a rooftop can sustain laughs indefinitely. Thankfully Tudyk’s derangement is interwoven nicely into the gut-busting finale.
All in all, I’m giving this a mixed review. I’d give it two stars for the first half and three stars for the second. I realized, as I was gathering my stomach contents from the theater floor due to an earlier sight gag that literally came from the toilet, that potty humor may be in fashion but it does not have to become an acquired taste.