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Death and a Funeral in Theaters

George Wolf George Wolf Death and a Funeral in TheatersPhoto still from "Greta," via IMDb.
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‘Twas the week before Captain Marvel…That’s right. Movie season kicks off next week, so we can be glad for that. And if you are already a Madea fan, or if you are in the mood for a weirdly unhinged Isabella Huppert (who isn’t?), there are some ways to bide your time before next weekend.

A Madea Family Funeral

by George Wolf

So far, Madea has plowed through a family reunion, a wedding, jail, witness protection, a Christmas and at least two Halloweens. You knew the time would come when she crashed a funeral.

That time is now.

Writer/director/star Tyler Perry is back for round number eight with Madea and her crazy crew, many of whom are also played by Perry. This time, everyone has gathered for a surprise anniversary party, but — surprise! — one family member turns up dead, meaning a funeral is now in order.

Who can they all turn to for funeral planning at a moment’s notice?

You can bet the service will carry some surprises of its own, especially with so many secrets just waiting to be spilled. Some family members are carrying on with other significant others (What? In a Tyler Perry movie?), and some people just can’t be trusted to keep quiet.

We’re eight movies into this formula, so don’t expect any big changes. The focus isn’t storytelling, character development, or humor that carries any thread of organic authenticity. What’s important is getting Perry’s different characters into convoluted situations where they can talk smack to each other.

That mission is accomplished early and often.

Expect plenty of “Hush up!”s and smacks in the face while the supporting characters stand around like good-looking mannequins that keep repeating “You okay?” to each other.

Perry does manage a genuine laugh or two (mainly from his “Joe” and “Heathrow” characters) among the painful shenanigans, but the best thing about this Madea is that there are so many that have come before.

She clearly has found an audience. If you’re part of it, A Madea Family Funeral will deliver just what you’re expecting.

If you’re not, there’s little reason to join the family now.

Grade: C-


by Hope Madden

Greta is a mess, and I don’t just mean the character.

In fact, I’m not sure the character is a mess at all, no matter how she hopes to fool you. Played by the inimitable Isabelle Huppert, the titular friend in need is, in fact, a crackpot. She’s a force to be reckoned with, and poor, wholesome Frances (Chloe Grace Moretz) doesn’t seem up to the reckoning.

A Midwestern transplant still grieving the loss of her mother, Frances lives in an irredeemably perfect New York apartment with her debutante bestie (Maika Monroe), but she feels a little untethered in the big city without her mom to call.

Enter Greta, the lonely older woman whose handbag Frances finds on the subway train and returns.

Director Neil Jordan hasn’t shot a feature since his underappreciated 2012 vampire fantasy, Byzantium. Here he shares writing duties with Ray Wright, who’s made a career of outright reboots and overt reworkings.

Like maybe Fatal Attraction with mommy issues.

There are elements to appreciate about Greta. Huppert is superb, her performance becoming more unhinged and eventually comical in that Nic Cage sort of way. Her time onscreen is creepy fun.

Moretz’s fresh-faced grief convinces for a while, and Monroe excels in an absolutely thankless role.

So what’s the problem? Well, number one, are we really afraid of this tiny, frail old lady?

No. We are not. Jesus, push her down already. I get it, you’re polite, but come on. I’m Midwestern and I’d have knocked her under a NYC taxi by now.

The terror is so unreasonable and yet so earnestly conveyed that scenes meant to be tense are comedic, and once you start laughing it’s hard to stop.

In fact, the sound of your own guffaws might distract you from the film’s truly breathtaking leaps of logic. It often feels as if whole reels were chunked out of this film and replaced with unconnected scenes from a private detective TV drama — one in which Stephen Rea’s dialog is inexplicably and unconvincingly dubbed.

What on earth?!

Well, par for the course with this film. It opens strong, develops well and relies on Huppert’s supernatural presence to create palpable tension before going entirely off the rails.

Grade: D+

Also screening in Columbus:

Apollo 11 (G)
Everybody Knows (R)
The Heiresses (NR)
Level 16 (R)
Never Look Away (R)
Run the Race (PG)
Sharkwater Extinction (NR)

Read more from George and crew at MADDWOLF and listen to his weekly movie review podcast, THE SCREENING ROOM.

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