(15+) US. Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, Loretta Devine
Proving that a comedy’s performers are sometimes more important than its jokes, this remake of Frank Oz’s dreary 2007 British farce of the same name livens up the proceedings by subbing in a comic African-American all-star cast. As before, the setting is a deceased family patriarch’s services, which are spearheaded by the dutiful oldest son (Rock) and his hotshot-author younger brother (Lawrence); all manner of romantic, sibling-rivalry and cross-generational wackiness ensues, mostly of the strained Three’s Company variety.
It’s director Neil LaBute’s formidable cast (which also includes Luke Wilson, James Marsden and Danny Glover) that really keep things moving, though their ability to generate postmortem laughs by brute comedic force never quite compensates for the middling slapstick nature of the high jinks and an over-reliance on easy poop gags. Still, this Death laps the original, laugh-wise, and is LaBute’s second-funniest film to date, trailing his unintentionally amusing cover-version of The Wicker Man.