By John Anderson
By Nick Schager
By Anna Dimond
By Chris Klimek
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Ciara LaVelle
By Scott Foundas
It doesnt take much to improve the first Death at a Funeral, the flat Frank Ozdirected Britcom of 2007; a few tossed-off references to Jetand sickle cell anemia will do it. Though the plot of Dean Craigs original script remains almost entirely intact (he receives the sole writers credit), the tweaks by star-producer Chris Rock who replaces the pallid ninnies of London with a mostly African-American extended clan gathered in Pasadena to say goodbye to a deceased patriarch yield some particularly sharp specifics.
Rock plays elder son Aaron, whose successful-writer younger brother, Ryan (Martin Lawrence), has made his riches off books titled Mamas Secret, Black Hurt, and Rhondas Tiny Box. Eulogizing Dad before learning about his life on the waaaaay down-low (Peter Dinklage reprises his role as the extorting secret boyfriend), Aaron refers to his fathers love of Golden Girls, especially when it went into syndication.
But Rocks interventions cant compensate for excessive fealty to dumb gags involving watery poop and designer hallucinogens. Some cast members bring welcome controlled mania: Tracy Morgan, as a hypochondriacal friend of the family, further hones his logorrheic outbursts. Others, like Luke Wilson, as a scorned suitor of Zoe Saldana, are such null presences that they should have been in the original.
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