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'Death' jam comedy

Published April 23. 2010 05:00PM

"Death at a Funeral" is sporadically amusing.

Chris Rock and Martin Lawrence portray brothers at their father's funeral at the home of their mother (Loretta Divine). Along for the jive is Tracy Morgan as a family friend.

Everybody has issues. Even their issues have issues. Rock and his wife (Regina Hall) frustrate mom because they haven't produced a grandchild. Zoe Saldana has an inappropriate boyfriend (James Marsden), in the eyes of her father. An uncle (Danny Glover) could keep a pharmacist busy 24-7. Luke Wilson is a whiny ex-boyfriend.

There's a small white person (Peter Dinklage, also in the 2007 original). What's he doing at the funeral?

Director Neil LaBute ("The Company of Men," "Nurse Betty," "Possession") keeps the comedy about death from dying. Rock, a co-producer; Lawrence; and Morgan are funny with laugh lines, straight lines or no lines. Even so, the screenplay by Dean Craig doesn't keep them busy. There are a few out-loud laughs and a hilarious payoff.

The main characters are so nondescript, you don't remember their names. There are too many supporting players, a typically-flawed substitute for a lack of main character development, clever dialogue and humorous scenes.

See the original British "Death at a Funeral" (2007), directed by Frank Oz. It not only had a stiff, but a stiff upper lip.

"Death at a Funeral": MPAA rated R (Restricted. Under 17 Requires Accompanying Parent Or Adult Guardian) for language, drug content and some sexual humor; Genre: Comedy; Run time: 1 hr., 30 min.; distributed by Screen Gems

Credit Readers Anonymous: "Death at a Funeral" opens with "Life" by Sly and the Family Stone and closes with "Papa Was A Rolling Stone" by The Temptations.

Box Office, April 16: In a surprise, the 3-D "How to Train Your Dragon," flew over two opening films to reclaim No. 1, $20 million, $158.6 million, four weeks.

"How to Train Your Dragon" opened at No. 1 March 26 when it slew the 3-D "Alice in Wonderland," ending Johnny Depp's three-week No. 1 reign (the film opened March 5).

"Kick-Ass" opened at No. 2, with $19.7 million. "Date Night" went to No. 3, $17.3 million, $49.2 million, two weeks. "Death at a Funeral" opened at No. 4, $17 million. After revised tallies, the 3-D "Clash of the Titans" was No. 1 and "Date Night" was No. 2 for the April 9 weekend.

"Clash of the Titans" dropped to No. 5, $15.7 million, $132.9 million, three weeks. With "Clash of the Titans" No. 1 the weekends of April 1 and 9, a 3-D movie has been No. 1 seven weeks in a row.

The ascendancy of 3-D movies is undeniable. The 3-D "Avatar" had a seven-week No. 1 run, Dec. 18 - Jan. 29, ending Feb. 5 when Allentown's Amanda Seyfried's "Dear John" opened at No. 1.

6. "The Last Song," $5.8 million, $50 million, three weeks; 7. "Tyler Perry's Why Did I get Married Too?," $4.1 million, $54.8 million, three weeks; 8. "Hot Tub Time Machine," $3.5 million, $42.5 million, four weeks; 9. "Alice in Wonderland," $3.5 million, $324 million, seven weeks; 10. "The Bounty Hunter," $3.2 million, $60.3 million, five weeks;

Unreel, April 22: Opening Earth Day is "Oceans," directed by Jacques Perrin ("Winged Migration," 2001), second in Disneynature's documentary series following "Earth" (2007), is about the sub-aquatic world. "The Back-Up Plan," rated PG-13, doesn't refer to Jennifer Lopez's career, but rather her mom-to-be status when she meets Mr. Right. "The Losers," rated PG-13, is about a CIA operations team.

Hear Paul Willistein's movie reviews on Lehigh Valley Arts Salon, 6 - 6:30 p.m. Mondays, WDIY 88.1 FM Lehigh Valley Community Public Radio. Read previous movie reviews at Email Paul Willistein at: pwillistein and on Facebook.

Two Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes

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