IN ONE SCENE in Death at a Funeral, award-winning actor Danny Glover traps Tracy Morgan's hand under his butt and poops on it. Then, when Morgan washes his hand, the water pressure is so high that the poop sprays into his mouth and all over his face. I only mention it because I just described one of the funniest scenes in this movie.
Death is a remake of a 2007 film by Frank Oz and Dean Craig, but since that film's cast was British, I guess it's box-office poison here. The Americanized version hews pretty close to Craig's original script, but Oz has been traded for Neil LaBute, who once made films like In the Company of Men and Your Friends and Neighbors, but now makes stuff like The Wicker Man remake. Oz is hardly known for his subtlety, but LaBute makes him look like fucking Ingmar Bergman. Obviously uncomfortable with loss, sadness, and other things often addressed at funerals, LaBute drags his feet through every scene with boring old dialogue 'til he can get to what really inspires him: shit going fucking crazy. "Let's cut Chris Rock's eulogy to his dead father short," LaBute seems to say. "I just wanna see Peter Dinklage high on mescaline, popping out of the coffin and dropping his homoerotic photos with the deceased!"
LaBute finds his perfect muse in James Marsden, an actor best known for playing X-Men's Cyclops and illustrating how paint dries. Marsden unexpectedly steals every scene he's in as Zoe Soldana's fiancé, unintentionally tripping balls on some sort of super-acid (people accidentally getting high = always funny). If the whole film could be a naked Marsden licking windowpanes, then Labute would at least be in his element—but alas, he's got all these respected black actors he has to humiliate.
It seems like LaBute just told every overqualified person in the cast to just do their usual thing and see what happened: Rock is a world-weary smart-ass; Martin Lawrence is an egotistical lech; Keith David is a pompous priest; Tracy Morgan is Tracy Jordan. Ironically, the only ones who survive this fiasco with their dignity are Marsden and poor Danny Glover, who give totally unhinged performances. Everyone else just looks confused and unhappy, and the feeling's pretty contagious.