DEATH AT A FUNERAL Review

First things first, I have not seen the British version of 'Death at a Funeral' although I have heard great things about it and plan on seeing it soon. Going in to the Hollywood version I didn't know what to expect, except for a great ensemble cast that would hopefully bring the funny. I hate for my opinion of this film to be solely influenced by that of the British version so in most ways I am happy that I saw this version first and had nothing looming over its head to compare or live up to. Standing on its own, this American 'Death at a Funeral' is one funny film. As with last week's 'Date Night' it is sometimes quite farcical, but 'Death at a Funeral' has a much stronger script. Chris Rock heads up the cast as the oldest son of the deceased family patriarch. He holds things together well as you would expect Mr. Rock to do, but for me he has always given off that vibe of trying to act a little too hard and in fact force being funny. This is especially true when he delivers his one-liners. His younger and more popular brother is played by Martin Lawrence who, after this and 'Roscoe Jenkins', seems to work best when he is surrounded by other funny people. Here he is the sleazebag brother who writes hack novels but gets published and doesn't know how to spend his money so his brother ends up paying for everything. While these two anchor the film, and honestly they do a great job of it, the remainder of the cast is filled with extended relatives and strangers who cause all sorts of mishaps that are just a tad past the believability line sometimes. The wonderful Danny Glover plays real old as Uncle Russell, who is constantly angry and takes most of it out on Tracy Morgan, who isn't as annoying as you might imagine here, and acts as if he is part of the family but apparently isn't although I'm not sure it ever explained how he knew them at all. In turn he is good friends with Luke Wilson's character. I like Wilson and enjoy most of his work and he creates some of the best dynamics in the drama here as a suck-up to the brother of the deceased in hopes he will get with his daughter and in the end his money. Problem with that is his daughter, played by the very busy Zoe Saldana is already engaged to James Marsden whom her father hates. Here is where the film really wins you over. I have heard that Marsden does a great spin on the original character here and others have said he is a disgrace for even attempting to do so. For me, he was the best thing about this movie. He is hilarious every second he is on screen. I saw this in a theater that maybe had ten other people in it and everyone was laughing out loud when Marsden was on screen. If you see this for one reason, see it because of him. As the previews gave away, the thick of the plot revolves around a blackmail scheme by the dead mans low down lover. Played by Peter Dinklage, the only cast member from the original. All of this is executed nicely, the pacing is great and the audience is never bored. Much like 'Roscoe Jenkins' this is a collaborative comedy and for the most part it succeeds. I have to mention Columbus Short, as he does a great job here as the cause for all the Valium taking and I hope to see him in more films in the future. Now, off to watch the original, let's hope I haven't let myself sound like a fool.