It's Friday night and I'm sitting in a movie theater doing something I just never do anymore: coming back for more. There was a time as a kid that I would zero in on a film, greedily lop it up, and follow it with lustful obsession. It's a pro of being a child - the ability to fully submerge oneself in a world and never let go.
I'm guilty as charged for such films as Star Wars Episode I
, hardly a masterpiece, and Clueless
(I had an older sister, cut me some slack). It's rarely the mark of a fantastic film and more often the score of fantasy capturing the imagination, whether that's the fantasy of a mystical force or a vision of what we think High School will be like. We all go through it, and eventually we all grow out of it.
Yet, here I am entering adulthood and finding myself unable to let go once again, sitting for the second time through a movie that probably few of you have cruised through even once: Death at a Funeral
. This time, my fixation comes not from the child within, but from the way Frank Oz
has allowed us to laugh at the very darkest parts of adulthood.
That's not to say that "Death at a Funeral" is dark. It's light from the very beginning, and just when you think it's going to get dark (something we've come to expect from smaller independent flicks), somebody does something absurdly wonderful, or perhaps hilariously awful, and has you holding your side and cringing with joy.
Death is the hardest part of living, especially for those left behind. The success of this movie comes from its ability to present living, caring characters in a situation that, while off-the-wall and unrealistic, feels surprisingly like it's actually happening. And you thank God it's really not.
This shouldn't surprise us. The director is, after all, known for creating Fozzi Bear, Grover, and Yoda. If there is one thing that the Muppet movies have flawlessly accomplished is the ability to make us believe in fictional furry people. We are made to love them and to adore their shenanigans. Oz has used the same formula here to bring his group of ultra-talented Brits (and a couple of Yanks who steal the show) to bleed on screen while at the same time appearing furry, sans the invisible hands up their bums.
"Death at a Funeral" is this year's Little Miss Sunshine
. It's that film of the year that takes away all the highs while it laughs the lows into submission. It helps us to believe in the human condition and to see how crazy we really are. And if you are one of the people who has ever taken a step back from a funeral or grave yard to think about what we're really doing there, you'll know what I mean. The film helps us cope with our own grief by laughing at the woes of others. Isn't that what comedy is all about?
So if you are not lucky enough to have had this movie "find you," then you need to go find it yourself. Whether that means looking it up at your local indie house, adding it to your Netflix que, or clicking "View Now" on your next flight, grab some popcorn and get ready to feed your inner adult.
Review by James Fagan
Starpulse.com contributing writer