Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Is It British? Turn It Up!

So the wife and I decide to watch Death At A Funeral the other night. I start the movie off and about three minutes into it I realize what I always realize every single time I watch a British movie. That I can't hear a single goddamn word they're saying. Everything sounds like it's played through a thick wool sock that's been deep fried and had duct tape placed over it. Am I alone on this? So I have the volume cranked up so I can hear it, but then the soundtrack kicks in and suddenly it's blaring so then I get the dirty look from the wife like I'm suddenly 80 years old so I turn down the volume. Then the talking happens again and I'm worried I might miss a joke (this is because unlike American comedy, the British don't announce the joke, tell the joke and then remind you that you just heard a joke) so I turn the volume back up.

And so it goes throughout the evening. Volume up so I can hear it until music or sound effects kick in and the walls shake then I get the dirty look from the wife so I fumble for the remote control to turn down the volume until the talking begins again and I can't hear so I grab the DVD remote to rewind the movie to make sure I haven't missed anything then I find the TV remote to turn up the volume and then proceed all over again. It's a vicious circle really and I'm pretty exhausted when it's all said and done. Needless to say the movie better be pretty damn good because, you know, I've put in the effort. It's like an expensive meal on a date. I better get a little something at the end to make it all worth while. Unfortunately Death At A Funeral was not worth while. I had a couple of friends tell me it was hilarious. That it was their new favorite movie. That it shouldn't be missed. And there I sat with remote controls in both hands and I waited for jokes to happen that never did. The best way I can describe Death At A Funeral is that it's like a very unfunny Seinfeld episode and honestly, that might be giving it too much credit. One of the main characters takes a pill that he thinks is a Valium but it's really Extacy, and so he acts like an idiot the rest of the movie. And not a funny idiot. More like an annoying idiot who makes you role your eyes every time he comes on screen. He says how green everything looks, grabs at some things that aren't there, and then he gets naked. And that's supposed to be funny, which it might be if it were playing Friday night at the Shady Grove Retirement Village. It's sad really because the character I'm mentioning is played by Alan Tudyk who I like very much and thought he was really good in the TV show Firefly. The movie is one series of misunderstanding after another with a couple of snafus mixed in for fun, or un-fun as it turns out.

I was told by my friend that her husband laughed really hard at one part which is strange because he's a pretty dry guy who rarely laughs out loud much. So I spent the entire movie waiting for that scene or string of scenes that were going to make me laugh, hoping that my incessant remote controlling would not be all for not. Did I mention there's a midget in the movie? He's played by Peter Dinklage. Yep, non-stop hilarity.

I guess I'm not surprised by all this. The movie was directed by Frank Oz who has been missing rather largely lately with The Stepford Wives and In & Out which was a complete disaster. Some will say so was Bowfinger and I might join them in saying that. I will say that with a couple of solid jokes and some more charming Michael Caine-like talent, Death At A Funeral could have been Dirty Rotten Scoundrels good which is to say that it wasn't a terribly funny movie, but at least it was a pleasant experience. But instead, I just got hand cramps with all the remote control action and I probably advanced my unavoidable carpal tunnel surgery by a couple of years. Damn.


pacheco said...

Ooooo, I may disagree with you on In & Out (I quite like the film), but when you even almost insult Bowfinger...friendships are challenged.

Just kidding (but I do love Bowfinger).

Anonymous said...

1. I had absolutely no problem with the sound or dialog.

2. You need to grow a sense of humour if you found nothing funny in the movie. Some of it is over the top, granted, and some kinda gross even, but bits of it WERE hilarious and if you didn't see that I'm not sure what planet you're on

Evan Derrick said...

Subtitles? That's what I have to do with the wife.

Anonymous said...

I avoided this movie as long as I could until the wife made me go see it. British humour just doesn't do it for me. It was fine. A little goofy.

I too, have that inability to understand anything being said by the Brits. I know I love Billy Elliot, but I couldn't tell you half the dialogue spoken. Same with Snatch, or anything else British.


Megan said...

Right in my wheelhouse on this one, Piper. Why do they mumble? When I watch Wire in the Blood, it is a constant volume control battle.

Haven't seen this movie yet. I had some hopes for it, though. Might still check it out...

Garrett Sorrels said...

I liked this movie and thought it was funny. I dont get the mumbling your talking about though. Them brits have accents.

Piper said...

Couple of things,

Pacheco don't rule me out yet. I was probably a bit harsh on Bowfinger. Can't hate it that much since it was written by Steve Martin.


As a matter of fact I checked just the other day and I have a full grown sense of humor. It's quite good actually. And evidently different from yours. And the planet I'm on is called Funny Planet where I sit around and laugh at funny stuff and don't laugh at non-funny stuff. It's a nice planet and I had no idea that Death At A Funeral was such a milestone in comedy filmmaking that if someone didn't like it, you would have to ask what planet they are from. Oh well.

And don't get me wrong that this is some slight against the Brits, and I would question that this movie could actually be called a British movie with an American director, but anyway I usually love British humor, but always seem to have a problem hearing it. A combination of the accent and quieter voices.

Fletch said...

I'm in the middle on Death, but closer to your side, Piper. I found it mildly amusing, but I roll my eyes when I see or read people talking about it like it's the funniest thing since sliced bread (or mixed metaphors). It's decent at best, and the best gag (wrong body) is over with 5 minutes into it.

Always nice to see Peter Dinklage, though. His first few scenes are pretty funny.

Oh, and I saw it in the theater, so I had no problems with the sound. :D

Piper said...


Had I seen this in the theater, away from my remote controls... I would have had no problem hearing or understanding it.

Foodie said...

This is why I watch all TV and movies with the subtitles on.

Burbanked said...

Yeah, count me in with the "subtitles" crowd, and the wife doesn't even mind that option. We used it watching ONCE, which starts out seriously hard to understand. The subtitles really helped the songs in that movie, too, and I think heightened my appreciation for it overall.

Haven't seen DEATH. The movie or the end of life for that matter.

* (asterisk) said...

I understand Brits perfectly well. Maybe cos I am one. And Frank Oz was born in my hometown, so he probably understands us too.

That said, modern British films are crap, by and large, so it doesn't surprise that this might be.

To be fair, though, in response to Megan, nobody mumbles as well as the Americans in films. I think Brits speak pretty clearly.

Piper said...

Didn't know Oz was born in GB, and I'm kind of with you that British films these days... aren't that good. A bit too sappy. I'm afraid that Four Weddings And A Funeral is to blame, as much as I enjoyed that film.

British deliveries are much dryer. They don't have the range and inflection that most American performances do - meaning they're more realistic. And I think that gets dismissed sometimes as mumbling. But I will say that some of the best punch lines of Hot Fuzz get mumbled a bit, which makes for wonderful repeat viewing.

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