The setting is a comfortably large house in the English countryside. Kin and friends have gathered for the funeral of the family patriarch bringing with them their foibles, eccentricities, and disasters waiting to happen. At the centre are the two brothers, Daniel and Troy (Matthew MacFayden and Rupert Graves). The former struggles under the shadow of his famous brother’s success as a writer, his plight encapsulated by the fact that everyone in attendance is disappointed that Troy will not be giving the eulogy. But his problems are about to become much, much greater, as the funeral descends into a chaos of unwelcome revelations, blackmail, drug freak-outs.
Director Frank Oz here rebounds from the disaster of his Stepford Wives remake with a pure slamming-door farce, and, for the most part, he succeeds. While Dean Craig’s script isn’t exactly bursting with surprises, it does have plenty of fun antics, and there are many “oh boy here comes trouble” anticipatory moments to revel. The cast is strong, with Alan Tudyk (currently essaying yet another accent to fine comic effect in Transformers: Dark of the Moon) and Peter Dinklage turning in particularly funny performances. If the shenanigans are ultimately a little familiar, think of this as the comedy equivalent of comfort food. Shepherd’s Pie may not be enticingly new, but it goes down fine all the same, and so does this.
The case boasts a mighty 38 Mbps for its AVC codec, and sure enough, that is the bitrate sustained. The colours, contrasts and flesh tones are all excellent. The sylvan setting is perfectly captured, the greens so natural as to be almost tactile. The resolution is, of course, superb, but the transfer does, for the most part, find just the right balance between digital precision and fidelity to the intent of the cinematography. For example, one of the recurring issues of Blu-ray technology, for me, has been its merciless reproduction of every pore and blemish on an actor’s face, regardless of whether or not a given shot was meant to bring such details to the audience’s attention. (See Knight & Day for a particularly unflattering case in point.) Here there are very few moments where this is in any way an issue. The aspect ratio, meanwhile, preserves the film’s 1.85:1 theatrical presentation.
This isn’t a film with a showy sound design. Dialogue (whether in the form of words or shrieks of horror) is what drives the film forward, and it is perfectly handled here, with zero distortion. There isn’t much by way of immersive sound effects, though the score, when it comes in, has a big, lively mix, and gives all speakers a good workout.
Commentary Tracks: Frank Oz’s commentary is a fairly by-the-numbers affair: where each shot was done, who each actor is when s/he appears (and how great each and ever one is). There is some disarming candour here, such as when Oz explains that the film only has an opening credits sequence because it otherwise would have run too short for a sale to the German market. One also gets the feeling that he isn’t exactly an actor’s director, since he seems so eager to credit the actors themselves with the development of character arcs. It is as if the need for such things was news to him.
The other track has cast members Tudyk and Andy Nyman join sceenwriter Craig for a somewhat more free-ranging discussion. Plenty of candour here, too, with Craig revealing that one of the nicer bits of plot symmetry (which I shall not spoil here) was not planned from the outset.
Gag Reel: (7:46) The usual collection of flubs.
The extras, beyond the commentaries, are thin, but the movie is good fun. Definitely worth the rental.