What is it about a comedic film about death set in the English countryside that people have to equate it to Waking Ned Devine? Now granted, that film was a crowd pleaser and is a pleasure to watch, but let’s not stigmatize the films that have been released after it. Consider the case of Undertaking Betty, a film about a funeral director named (really) Boris Plots (Alfred Molina, Spider Man 2) who has known Betty (Brenda Blethyn, Beyond the Sea) for quite some time, but h…s been afraid to ask her on a date. The fact that Betty has been married to a councilman named Hugh (Robert Pugh, Master and Commander) who has taken her for granted over the last 20 years hasn’t helped either. And Hugh doesn’t hesitate to cheat with Meredith (Naomi Watts, King Kong), who wants to be with Hugh and is willing to kill for it.
Boris has come across some competition in the undertaking business, as a rival director named Frank (Christopher Walken, Pulp Fiction) is determined to put the “fun” into “funeral” and his assistant Delbert (Lee Evans, There’s Something About Mary) who do some, well, unique interpretations of funeral ceremonies. When Hugh’s mother dies, Betty and Boris meet and it stirs up feelings in Boris that he hasn’t had in awhile, ever since grade school when he wanted to ask Betty to dance and didn’t and he’s regretted it ever since. And while he tries to woo Betty, Betty is still for whatever reason, loyal to the negligent and disloyal Hugh.
So Boris and Betty decide (since Boris is an expert on these things) to stage Betty’s death so that Hugh can be taken care of financially and Betty can be with Boris. Betty’s death is staged at a public event where Frank and Delbert and present, and they lobby Hugh to give Betty the funeral that she deserves (as if watching Frank’s previous work showed any signs of respectability). And from there, things in Boris and Betty’s plan never seem to go as they should.
Written by Frederick Ponzlov and directed by Nick Hurran (Little Black Book), the film was made in 2002, which explains why this film had a cast of Watts in a pre-Kong role and Molina before he strapped on the Doc Ock arms. One would guess that the film is finally being released now because Miramax wants to keep this as low on the radar as possible, but it’s actually a pleasant movie. The end of the film felt a little bit forced and unnecessary (for a film that is 88 minutes long), but the performances are sweet and the story is cute. Why this film was rated R is a mystery to me, there were only a couple of moments that were a little blue, but should have made it a PG-13 film. It’s a surprising and pleasant experience.
Feel the Dolby Digital 5.1 surround love! In all sincerity, the soundtrack isn’t too bad, but the movie is fairly muted, so the inclusion of this soundtrack is welcome, but not necessary.
Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, Undertaking Betty looks OK, but there’s an element of this film that appears to be a little bit blown out. Perhaps that’s just the way things look when watching Alfred Molina. But there’s a consistent layer of film grain present and the color palette in the film is reproduced well.
Aside from a couple of trailers for other Miramax films, the only extra is a 6 minute look at the making of the film, and everyone gets a sound bit in, so bully to that.
If you watch the film and turn it off around the 75 minute mark, it’s the kind of film that will leave you smiling. Believe me when I tell you, don’t watch the end, it helps put a damper on a jolly flick that is very charming. Kinda like kissing a cute girl and finding out she wears a jockstrap. So I’m told.
Special Features List
- Making of Featurette