In 2007 talented director Frank Oz (and voice of Fozzy Bear) released a brilliantly funny British farce called Death at a Funeral in America. No one saw it. Except me that is. I showed up at an empty theater and watched it, laughing my ass off, all alone. A day later its theatrical run was over, it never had a chance. Because it wasn't ever really marketed, Frank Oz's farce never found an audience. Instead it ended up on our list of the most overlooked movies of the decade. Now only three years later, Sony's remaking it.
It's not as if the original movie was inaccessible. Sure most of the actors were British, but as Americans, we speak the same language. No subtitles required. But now Death at a Funeral has been repurposed as a Chris Rock vehicle and so in an effort to understand why I've decided to let both versions duke it out, head to head, in a scene by scene comparison.
The scenes used below were chosen not by me, but by Sony, based on the clips they've released from their new movie to the press. This should then, in theory, give Death at a Funeral 2010 the advantage since Sony has chosen the scenes they'd most like to represent the new movie and I'm forced to simply pull the equivalent scene out of the original film regardless of whether it's a good representation of Frank Oz's work or not. Game on.
This is the very first scene in the Frank Oz directed Death at a Funeral and its likely to be near the beginning in the remake edition. We'll start with the 2007 Death at a Funeral interpretation.
Now it's Death 2010's turn:
|That Wasn't Valium|
In this scene a brother and sister arrive at the funeral with the sister's boyfriend. Earlier in the film we've seen them getting ready to leave and the boyfriend, played by Alan Tudyk in the original and James Marsden in the remake, is nervous, so his girlfriend gives him what she believes to be Valium. It isn't. Here's the Death at a Funeral 2007 take:
A lot of the credit also has to go to Tudyk, who gives an incredibly hilarious performance throughout the film. This is one of his best moments here. It's worth noting that even while Tudyk's behavior grows gradually more and more outrageous, the reaction of everyone around him remains fairly grounded in reality. Troy (Kris Marshall) knows that what Simon's been given isn't Valium, but he's hesitant to tell his sister that he's been carrying around illegal substances. He'll tell her later, but his first reaction is to step back and take it all in. That works. Everyone sort of gets out of the way and simply lets Tudyk be funny.
Now the remake takes a shot at the same scene:
|There's Someone Alive In There!|
In this scene the movie's lead Daniel (or Aaron in the remake version), has spent the day struggling to come up with a speech. Now he finally has to give it and everything suddenly goes nuts. Death at a Funeral 2007, as always you get to go first:
Death 2010 is in kind of a rush here. The 07 version took this scene and let it build. The 07 version is funny because it starts slowly and things snowball. Tudyk slowly goes nuts in the audience, becoming more and more freaked out by what he sees. Marsden just sort of stands up, says his lines, knocks over the coffin for no discernable reason, and then everyone makes a lot of incomprehensible noise. Even if the audience wanted to laugh, the movie never really gives them time to. The 2007 version is nearly two and half minutes long. The 2010 version takes less than a minute.
|The Truth About Dad|
It's important to understand where this scene is coming from. The entire premise of Death at a Funeral is that there's a secret about Daniel's dead father which he's absolutely terrified will get out. In this clip he's revealing that secret to his brother, not because he wants to tell him, but because he desperately needs his help to keep it. Death at a Funeral Classic, take it away:
In this version, for some reason they also fail to go somewhere private. Sure they're alone at the pool but someone could wander in at any moment and learn the terrifying secret he's desperate to keep. Chris Rock doesn't seem concerned. Lawrence's Ryan on the other hand, seems to have little problem comprehending what he's being told. He gets it right away and starts mugging for the camera.
|Just Say No To Blackmail|
In this sequence Daniel/Aaron decides not to pay the guy who's blackmailing them. Strangely, in both versions the blackmailer is played by the great Peter Dinklage. In the 2007 version this sequence is actually split into two scenes, so watch both 07 videos below to get the full picture.
Show us what you've got Death 2010:
|So Long And Thanks For The Sex|
In this scene, the character played by James Marsden and Alan Tudyk has locked himself in the bathroom where he's spazzing out on pills. His concerned girlfriend waits outside, pounding on the door, trying to convince him to come out. Here's how Death 2007 handles it:
Let's see what Death at a Funeral: The New Class does with it:
We've been through six comparisons and there's a definite pattern. Remake director Neil LaBute has taken a fairly restrained and subtly funny film and made it louder, broader, and faster. Individual scenes take less time but the actors in them react bigger. Complex character motivations are dumbed down to give the audience big, flashing signposts which tell them how to feel. Genuine emotions have been replaced by wisecracks. The next time someone tells you something has been Americanized, think of Death at a Funeral and you'll know exactly what they're talking about.
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