The difference between British and American comedies is not so much a matter of content as it is a matter of delivery. American comedy tends to hit the audience over the head with the punchline; the Brits let the jokes fly more subtly and with little fanfare—forcing the audience to keep up. American comedies, like this summer's Adam Sandler vehicle, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, typically create screwball situations and revel in crass buffoonery for its own sake. British comedies can be equally sophomoric and crude, but there is usually some larger satirical purpose or cultural commentary going on.
Such is the case with Death at a Funeral, a film that turns one of culture's most sacred ceremonies into a circus of comedic insanity and fun British colloquialisms ("Art you mental?" is my favorite). It is just as bawdy and juvenile as any American comedy, yes; but it is also smart, subtle, and heartfelt—and this makes all the difference.
Funeral opens with an animated titles sequence that follows a cartoon hearse as it travels a winding path over a roadmap. When the hearse finally reaches its destination (a lovely country manor somewhere in rural Britain), Daniel (Matthew MacFadyen) solemnly watches as the casket of his dead father is unloaded and brought into the house where it will sit for a quiet family funeral. When the casket is opened, however, it turns out the wrong body has been brought! And so begins the barrage of mishaps, calamities, and unfortunate events that will make this simple, dignified occasion anything but.
Eventually the correct casket is delivered, and soon the house is invaded by dozens of guests, including family, friends, and a mysterious dwarf (Peter Dinklage) with an illicit secret. ...1