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Film / Death at a Funeral

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Death at a Funeral is a 2007 British Black Comedy film directed by Frank Oz, with an ensemble cast including Peter Dinklage, Keeley Hawes, Rupert Graves, and Alan Tudyk.

A family tries to give an appropriate funeral for its late patriarch. Cue epic sibling rivalry, accidental acid tripping, dwarf secret gay lovers, nudity, blackmail and caskets being knocked over.

In what must be something of a record for an English language movie, an American remake starring Chris Rock, Tracy Morgan, Zoe Saldaña, James Marsden and Danny Glover was released just three years later in 2010, which kept the overall tone of a black comedy... but not in that way. Peter Dinklage reprised his role.

The original film contains examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Justin to Martha, and then to Katie.
  • Actor Allusion: Uncle Alfie is played by Peter Vaughan, who also played Mr Helpmann in Brazil, another elderly wheelchair-bound gentleman who needs to be helped in the toilet by the protagonist in a memorable scene.
  • All for Nothing: Daniel and Robert fail to keep the secret of their father's illicit affair with Peter when the Not Quite Dead dead American pops out of the coffin and the compromising photos spill onto the floor. Also applies to Peter, who in turn won't get the money he was hoping to inherit from his lover now that his plot to blackmail the family has been exposed.
  • Animated Credits Opening: A cartoon showing a drawing of a coffin wending its way through a street map of London, until it gets to the family home, as the opening credits roll. There's also a Call-Back at the end of the closing credits where we see a cartoon of the coffin placed in the ground, where grass grows over it.
  • Bad Liar: When Peter bursts out of the coffin, Robert tries to cover by yelling, "what the hell are you doing in my dad's coffin?!" even as his eyes are shifting every which way.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: The recently deceased father turns out to have been a closeted homosexual. One son is a complete narcissist. The sons have two cousins: one has a boyfriend her father despises and an ex who aggressively stalks her, and the other is a drug dealer crafting hallucinogens in his kitchen. They also have an ornery, foul-mouthed old uncle.
  • Birth-Death Juxtaposition: It's no coincidence that Martha ends up announcing her pregnancy during the funeral.
  • Blackmail: Peter, the father's gay lover, turns up at the funeral and threatens to reveal all unless Daniel and Robert pay him off.
  • Bound and Gagged: Daniel and Robert tie Peter up when he threatens to tell everyone about his affair with their father.
  • Bury Your Gays: Played with, then averted. Peter, who appeared to have fallen over and broken his neck while whacked out on Troy's speed, wakes up and hops out of the coffin.
  • Butt-Monkey: Daniel, especially when compared to his brother Robert. Howard, too.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Seemingly played straight near the end when Martha/Elaine tells off Victor/Duncan near the end over opposing her upcoming marriage... except he's really spent the entire movie watching his daughter's fiancee act like an unaccountable lunatic and at the end of the scene, the man's simply left saddened and shocked while the story moves on. That being said, Victor is a Dr. Jerk who has hated Simon since well before the funeral and continues to treat him poorly after Martha claims that his behavior is because of a poor reaction to medication.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The "valium", actually a powerful hallucinogen. First given to Simon to calm him down before a meeting with his prospective father-in-law, with disastrous effects. Then given to Peter by Daniel and Robert when they're trying to stop him from disrupting the funeral, because they don't know it's not real Valium either. Then finally taken by crotchety old Uncle Alfie, which leaves him naked on the roof at the end of the film.
  • The Comically Serious: The title says it all, doesn't it? Deconstructed by Roger Ebert's reviews of both versions:
    (on the 2007 original) Frank Oz's "Death at a Funeral" finds its comedy in the peculiar human trait of being most tempted to laugh when we're absolutely not supposed to.
    (on the 2010 remake) I don't laugh at movies where the characters are deliberately being vulgar. But when they desperately don't want to be—now that's funny.
  • Contemplating Your Hands: During Simon's trip.
    Simon: Why are my hands so big?
  • Cramming the Coffin: The deceased's diminutive gay lover gets knocked out after his attempts to blackmail the two sons goes wrong, and the sons, thinking that they'd accidentally killed him, hide him in their father's coffin. Naturally, he wakes up at the worst possible time.
  • Cringe Comedy: Oh so much. Most of the comedy in the film comes from how embarrassing and Squicky it can get as things go From Bad to Worse. Most notable is the whole incident with getting Uncle Alfie on the toilet, which results in someone getting shit on their hands.
  • Dead Man's Chest: After Peter dies, a frantic Daniel and Robert hide his corpse in their father's coffin.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: Daniel is puzzled about all the pictures Peter is showing him of Peter and his dad. Daniel notes that he's never heard of Peter, yet Peter and Daniel's father were "going around like you're some kind of—", and he stops dead in shock as he realizes the nature of the relationship.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Daniel has been using his father's study to write his own novel, but it is only when he speaks with Peter that he looks around the room and realizes the homoerotic overtones in all the art on the walls.
  • Family Disunion: A big messy family that has all sorts of problems and conflicts that come together at the funeral of the patriarch. Daniel wants to get an apartment but is hard-pressed to find the money; his wife is pushing him to make the deposit. His brother Robert is apparently broke. Their cousin Martha is dating Simon, whom her father loathes for some reason; Martha's brother Troy is a drug dealer and Simon accidentally takes some of Troy's acid. Their father turns out to have been gay and his lover shows up at the funeral, demanding a blackmail payment.
  • Hypochondria: Howard suffers from this. His first scene has him freaking out over a discolouration on his wrist, which a barely-attentive Victor diagnoses as possibly the result of a food allergy. Howard then starts freaking out over how much food contains nuts. By then end of the movie he's overcome his neuroses, because getting Uncle Alfie's shit on his hand, face and possibly in his mouth has made it impossible for him to think about anything else.
  • Informed Attribute: Robert is hailed as a popular writer, yet it's shown that he has trouble reading subtext. Key moment being when Daniel tries to gently tell him that their father was in the closet and Robert's unable to read him until Daniel just blurts it out.
  • Intoxication Ensues: Simon takes what he thinks is a Valium to calm himself down on the way to the funeral. It turns out to be a much more powerful psychotropic drug, made by Troy the drug dealer.
  • Mushroom Samba: Leads to naked roof climbing. Twice. And one almost being Buried Alive.
  • Naked People Are Funny: Simon climbing the roof naked. Uncle Alfie sitting naked on the roof at the end of the film. Even the poster is an example of this trope!
  • Never Trust a Title: No one actually dies at the funeral.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: Jane is a downplayed example:
    • When a delirious Simon topples over the decedent's coffin and spills said decedent onto the floor, Daniel and Jane have to deal with the resulting chaos; Jane, sounding more amazed than upset, remarks, "That was unbelievable, wasn't it?"
    • Before the second attempt to hold the memorial, Daniel laments what a nightmare the whole day has been, but Jane grins broadly and says it's all been "sort of exciting - for a funeral, I mean."
  • No Antagonist: No villains to thwart, just a lot of hilarious and unrelated things going wrong at every opportunity. Peter is the closest thing the film has to an antagonist, but he's only involved with one subplot and even he ultimately becomes another victim of the funeral's overall chaos.
  • Not Quite Dead: Peter, believed to be dead and hidden in his lover's coffin, leaps out of it in the middle of the funeral service.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping:
    Simon: Eight hours of this?!
  • Open Mouth, Insert Foot: As soon as Robert/Ryan arrives, he complains about the cost and inconveniences of air travel, even when you're flying first class, and asks what the point of the extra expense is, since if the plane goes down, everybody dies anyway. His mother bursts into tears and excuses herself.
    Robert: Oh, shit...
  • Queer People Are Funny: A lot of humor when Robert and Daniel find out their father was gay, and start putting all the pieces together—the homoerotic Bible verse at the funeral service, their father's penchant to get all his friends skinnydipping in their youth, the collection of homoerotic art in their father's study, the goofy pictures of Peter and their dad out on dates, and that one picture that remains unseen but shocks everyone.
  • Riddle for the Ages:
    • Uncle Alfie's anecdote about how everyone wanted to fuck his girlfriend is cut short when he needs to use the toilet. Whatever point he was trying to make while telling that story is never made clear.
    • How exactly did wheelchair-bound Uncle Alfie end up on the roof of the house?.
  • Rule of Funny: Uncle Alfie is confined to a wheelchair due to old age, requiring assistance with using a toilet. Then he takes some of Troy's drugs and is last seen on the roof of the house.
  • Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!: Uncle Alfie curses, hits family members with his cane, orders people around, and bluntly says what's on his mind simply because he's old.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Daniel is writing Peter a cheque for 15,000 pounds in exchange for the blackmail photos, when Peter throws in an offhand comment about how Daniel's novel manuscript seems weak for a first effort, especially compared to Robert's work. Daniel rips up the cheque and tells Robert he is not giving "this twat" a single penny, and doesn't care if the entire world sees the photos.
  • She Is All Grown Up: Robert observes this about Katie.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Between Daniel, The Unfavorite of nearly everyone in the family, and Robert, whom everyone loves because of his successful writing career.
  • Slimeball: Justin. He only came to the funeral so he can flirt with Martha, during which time it's revealed he took advantage of her while she was drunk. When Martha reveals that she's pregnant, Justin loses all interest because he doesn't want the responsibility of parenthood. Seconds later, Justin is seen making a pass at Katie.
  • So Proud of You: Daniel spends most of the film in the shadow of his younger, more famous brother, but when he rallies and delivers a heartwarming eulogy, both his mother and his wife are aglow. Even Robert admits that Daniel did a pretty good job.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Justin is this towards Martha, so much so he's a borderline male Abhorrent Admirer. Justin constantly follows Martha around and hits on her no matter how many times she tells him she's in love with Simon. Justin immediately loses interest after finding out Martha is pregnant.
  • Straight Man: Daniel, very much so. He is thoroughly regular and normal, and acts as a foil to all his weird, crazy relatives.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: "Everything's so fucking green!"
  • This Explains So Much: Robert confides to Daniel that, after their mother got over the initial shock of finding out her husband was sleeping with a man, she admitted that it cleared up a lot of her confusion as to why they hadn't slept together for quite a long time.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Peter has achondroplasia and is a homosexual.
  • The Un-Smile: Howard’s panicked attempt to grin when he goes to tell the brothers that he thinks Peter is dead.
  • Video Credits: The credits have shots of the main cast members all laughing after they blow lines.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Daniel agonizes over giving the eulogy at his father's funeral, when his younger brother Robert is the celebrity novelist and everyone at the funeral acts politely surprised that Robert won't be delivering the eulogy. Jane tells him to stop worrying, she knows he'll be magnificent. She's right.

The American remake contains examples of:

  • Foreign Remake: Made... three years after the first one's theatrical release in America.
  • Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: Ryan smacks Norman when he's freaking out about going to jail.
  • Honking Arriving Car: As Norman and Derek roll up to the senior living home to pick up Uncle Russel, who is waiting outside, Norman honks the car horn to get his attention and say, "Hi."
  • Let Me Get This Straight...: As noted below, Aaron is caught a little off guard by Ryan's take on the situation.
  • Race Lift:
    • The entire cast with the exception of Frank/Peter (Peter Dinklage played the same part in both films), Simon/Oscar and Justin/Derek. Which allowed for this bit of dialogue:
    Aaron: Our father was having gay sex with a guy who could fit in his pocket... and you're mad 'cause he's white?
    • The original contained a similar line, but the sticking point was that he was American, not white.
    • Also used to punch up the joke in the opening scene, where the funeral home not only delivers the wrong body, but it's an Asian man.
  • Remake Cameo: A variation. Peter Dinklage actually played in the same role in both films.
  • She Is All Grown Up: Ryan says this when he sees that a family friend has grown from a girl to a voluptuous young woman.
  • Vanity License Plate: The license plate on the hearse reads "DCEASED".
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Uncle Duncan says it, word-for-word, after Aaron delivers his surprisingly graceful and heartwarming eulogy.