Brit wit

'Death at a Funeral,' a comedy from U.K., is well-acted and delightfully out of step

Posted: August 17, 2007

Take "Four Weddings and A Funeral," subtract the four weddings, add a midget and an LSD trip, and you've got, for my money, a significant upgrade.

It's called "Death at a Funeral," and it's a British comedy that shows the minor miracles that can be performed with a cast of (mostly) British actors, a drawing room, and a funny idea.

Matthew Macfadyen (from the Keira Knightley "Pride and Prejudice") heads the ensemble, playing a British man at his parents' country house nervously trying to arrange his father's funeral.

He's writing and delivering the eulogy, sure to be a letdown, since everyone assumes it will be written and delivered by his famous expat brother (Rupert Graves), a celebrated writer flying in from New York.

He first must ensure that the right body arrives at the house, please the wife (Keeley Hawes) who thinks the funeral is distracting from a real-estate deal, and figure out the agenda of the mysterious "little person" (Peter Dinklage) who keeps pestering him for a private audience.

There are other complications - a cousin (Daisy Donovan) brings her fiance (Alan Tudyk) and hopes to impress her father, but that goes out the window (literally) when the bridegroom accidentally ingests psychoactive drugs.

Decades ago, when Britain used to crank out this sort of comedy by the dozen, the contrivances of "Death at a Funeral" might have made it feel like a routine farce.

But this movie is so nicely performed and efficiently delivered (an appetizing 90 minutes) by director Frank Oz, it seems fresh and distinctive, and it's delightfully out of step with the current comedy trends. *

Produced by Diana Phillips, Share Stallings, Laurence Malkin and Sidney Kimmel, directed by Frank Oz, written by Dean Craig, music by Murray Gold, distributed by MGM.

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