Modern Take on 1940s Farce Is a Let-Down; DEATH AT A FUNERAL (15, 90 Mins) Comedy/Drama. Matthew Macfadyen, Rupert Graves, Jane Asher, Keeley Hawes, Daisy Donovan, Alan Tudyk, Ewen Bremner, Kris Marshall, Andy Nyman, Peter Vaughan, Peter Dinklage, Peter Egan. Director: Frank Oz. *** Cinema

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FRANK Oz's very British black comedy of secrets from beyond the grave harks back to glorious farces of the 1940s and 50s, with a distinctly modern sensibility: narcotic-fuelled hallucinations, gratuitous nudity and illicit sexual dalliances.

Upper lips are suitably stiff, though sadly not the drinks, causing the not-so-merry widow to defer the umpteenth offer of Earl Grey and sympathy: "Tea can do many things dear, but it can't bring back the dead!"

The humour errs towards the predictable and there's a whiff of desperation in the middle section of the film as screenwriter Dean Craig engineers increasingly loopy set-ups for laughs, almost severing any ties to reality.

Having unleashed chaos, the temptation to neatly resolve various emotional crises proves too great. The resolution, like the copious cups of soothing hot tea, is excessively sweet.

When their father dies, Daniel (Macfadyen) and his successful novelist brother Robert (Graves) rush to the side of their mother, Sandra (Asher), who is barely clinging on to her sanity. …


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