Death At A Funeral: Another nail in the coffin of the Britcom

Pete Simmonds 10 November 2007

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my solemn duty to announce to you the death of British Comedy. Every aspect of Death At A Funeral is flawed and if there is any justice the cast, crew, writer and director of this horrible, horrible film will be brought to justice soon.

The flimsy plot is premised on the kind of ‘hilarious’ coincidences that were looking dated in Terry and June circa 1985. There’s even a comedy vicar.

I believe that naming and shaming those involved may prevent future horrors. Dean Craig, for creating one of the worse scripts in movie history, please take a bow. The feckless screenwriter has tried to emulate Four Weddings and a Funeral, unfortunately Richard Curtis’ toenail clippings have more talent.

To add insult to injury, it has then occurred to him that combining this brand of gentle British comedy with the scatological humour of American Pie would broaden his script’s appeal. Inevitably this leaves everything feeling schizophrenic and the film doesn’t work on either level.

With the Hollywood writers’ strike ongoing, the rumour is that British writers are being pursued to produce next year’s blockbusters. I urge studio executives everywhere, for the good of mankind, please do not allow this gross misjudgement of public tastes to be repeated and eliminate Mr Craig from your rolodexes.

The writing is not the only problem though. I have rarely seen an ensemble cast containing so many miscast actors. Matthew MacFadyen has previously played a dark and broody spy in the excellent Spooks and a dark and broody Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. In Death At A Funeral he is asked to play a simpering drip of a man unable to stand up to his wife or mother. At no point is he able to do this convincingly and he therefore becomes nothing more than a distraction.

 

I believe that naming and shaming those involved may prevent future horrors

 

Equally unconvincing is Jane Asher as his bitchy mother. That’s not a printing error. Happy, friendly, cake baking Jane Asher is asked to convey her character as unfeeling and heartless. She is given some of the better lines in the script but these are lost in her witless performance. On the up side the comedy vicar is well cast.

This brings me to the sad task of criticising one of my childhood idols. Frank Oz was peerless as the voice of Fozzie Bear and Yoda. In the late 1980s he directed Little Shop of Horrors and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Both were high quality popcorn movies and his career behind the camera looked promising. Since then he has produced stinker after stinker. His last movie was The Stepford Wives, a movie so bad it threatened to derail Nicole Kidman’s career.

Death At A Funeral does not display any signs of recovery for Oz. Comedic set pieces are bungled and even the shots of the British countryside are so dreary that they fail to add any joy to the viewing experience.

Even the end credits provide a kick in the teeth to the viewer. They consist of each cast member breaking into laughter during an outtake. The charitable justification for this is that the studio having witnessed ninety minutes devoid of laughter, felt that this added some balance.

In reality it feels like the viewing public is being openly mocked for wasting its valuable time and money. Please don’t become a victim, avoid at all costs.

adies and Gentlemen, it is my solemn duty to announce to you the death of British Comedy. Every aspect of Death At A Funeral is flawed and if there is any justice the cast, crew, writer and director of this horrible, horrible film will be brought to justice soon.

The flimsy plot is premised on the kind of ‘hilarious’ coincidences that were looking dated in Terry and June circa 1985. There’s even a comedy vicar.

I believe that naming and shaming those involved may prevent future horrors. Dean Craig, for creating one of the worse scripts in movie history, please take a bow. The feckless screenwriter has tried to emulate Four Weddings and a Funeral, unfortunately Richard Curtis’ toenail clippings have more talent.

To add insult to injury, it has then occurred to him that combining this brand of gentle British comedy with the scatological humour of American Pie would broaden his script’s appeal. Inevitably this leaves everything feeling schizophrenic and the film doesn’t work on either level.

With the Hollywood writers’ strike ongoing, the rumour is that British writers are being pursued to produce next year’s blockbusters. I urge studio executives everywhere, for the good of mankind, please do not allow this gross misjudgement of public tastes to be repeated and eliminate Mr Craig from your rolodexes.

The writing is not the only problem though. I have rarely seen an ensemble cast containing so many miscast actors. Matthew MacFadyen has previously played a dark and broody spy in the excellent Spooks and a dark and broody Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. In Death At A Funeral he is asked to play a simpering drip of a man unable to stand up to his wife or mother. At no point is he able to do this convincingly and he therefore becomes nothing more than a distraction.

Equally unconvincing is Jane Asher as his bitchy mother. That’s not a printing error. Happy, friendly, cake baking Jane Asher is asked to convey her character as unfeeling and heartless. She is given some of the better lines in the script but these are lost in her witless performance. On the up side the comedy vicar is well cast.

This brings me to the sad task of criticising one of my childhood idols. Frank Oz was peerless as the voice of Fozzie Bear and Yoda. In the late 1980s he directed Little Shop of Horrors and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Both were high quality popcorn movies and his career behind the camera looked promising. Since then he has produced stinker after stinker. His last movie was The Stepford Wives, a movie so bad it threatened to derail Nicole Kidman’s career.

Death At A Funeral does not display any signs of recovery for Oz. Comedic set pieces are bungled and even the shots of the British countryside are so dreary that they fail to add any joy to the viewing experience.

Even the end credits provide a kick in the teeth to the viewer. They consist of each cast member breaking into laughter during an outtake. The charitable justification for this is that the studio having witnessed ninety minutes devoid of laughter, felt that this added some balance.

In reality it feels like the viewing public is being openly mocked for wasting its valuable time and money. Please don’t become a victim, avoid at all costs.

Pete Simmonds