SIFF Film Review: Death at a Funeral

One of the millions of reasons I love living in Seattle, and one of the main reasons I moved here in the first place (11 years ago!) was because of the independent film scene. It used to be that the Seattle International Film Festival contributed a great deal to this scene by bringing small independent films that might not otherwise be seen on a big screen or, perhaps even make it to DVD to a theatre near you. (If you live in Seattle, of course). Unfortunately, over the years, SIFF has fallen prey to the same trappings that other big film festivals like Sundance and Cannes have. Thousands of hopeful filmmakers scrounge for $50 + postage and submit their small films to these festivals hoping to be discovered, not realizing that before a call for submissions even goes out, half the festival has already been programmed with sure-thing films. Those films have name stars or directors and often ALREADY HAVE DISTRIBUTION BY THE TIME THE FESTIVAL ROLES AROUND. These people do not need help. But, as is the Hollywood way, they get it anyway. I hate being so jaded, so I go to SIFF anyway. I wait in line to see a movie by Frank Oz. Of course, I like Frank Oz. He's YODA, for Jeebus' Sake! He also directed the film of my favorite musical of all time, Little Shop of Horrors. (I would like to say that this is the ONE film that is based on a musical based on a film that actually worked out OK and I hate that it is probably responsible for why that godawful Hairspray adaptation/remake is about to happen. But I digress…)

Death at a Funeral is Frank Oz's latest film. It has the formula for being great. British actors, or actors pretending to be British, dark comedy about death and funerals with drug references and Peter Dinklage. Sadly, I found it falls a little flat. The jokes are surprisingly cliche for a film about funeral mishaps. Also, my enjoyment of the film was impacted by the EXTREMELY overeager audience who, aware that Mr. Oz was in attendance, SCREAM laughed at every single joke. You think I exaggerate? I assure you that this is not hyperbole. The man next to me was shrieking as if his life depended on making sure Frank Oz knew he LOVED the film. The experience was both physically and emotionally painful.

There were good points about the film. The aforementioned Dinklage is always fantastic. Likewise with Alan Tudyk (he with the decent fake British accent and expressive face). In fact, the entire cast was pretty spot on. I just wish they'd been given something a little edgier to do with their talent. In the end, it felt like my boyfriend and I were actually attending movie night at the retirement home. For a movie with profanity and references to hallucinogenics and gay sex, the whole affair felt pretty tame. But at least now I know what DVD to get my grandmother for Christmas.


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