Worth A Look: 14.81%
Pretty Bad: 11.11%
Total Crap: 3.7%
2 reviews, 15 user ratings
by Scott Weinberg
What do movies like "Clue", "Scavenger Hunt", "Noises Off!" and "Greedy" have in common? They're all ensemble comedies full of high-energy mania, none of them are exactly what you'd call "particularly good movies", and each one is a farce that I like quite a bit. And, hey! Let's add another one to the list!When people asked me which of the Sundance offerings I was most looking foward to, the first one on my non-horror list was Michael Clancy's Eulogy. "What's that one?" people would invariably ask, to which I'd respond:
"Several great performers, wandering aimlessly, periodically very funny."
It looks to be a dark comedy about one big goofball family that gets together to mourn the passing of the patriarch. Oh, and it stars Ray Romano, Debra Winger, Hank Azaria, Zooey Deschanel, Kelly Preston, Famke Janssen, Rip Torn, Jesse Bradford, Glenne Headly, Piper Laurie and Paget Brewster.
If that cast has a weak link, please let me know which of those performers hasn't earned their praise time and again in previous movies.
And if you're looking for a fragmented ensemble showcase, one in which each of the actors earn a handful of solid laughs in their own, isolated moments, you'll be as mildly entertained by Eulogy as I was. The always-excellent and generally-overlooked Zooey Deschanel is given most to do, as she represents the one small beacon of decency in a family full of wolves, but most of the familiar faces get to steal a few scenes for themselves.
Romano, playing (quite astutely) against type, is the smug and vulgar father to two leering and distasteful teenage boys.
Azaria is a pot-smoking, has-been TV actor who has one arcane tag line to claim as fame. As always, Azaria takes a supporting gig and somehow manages to be the single best thing onscreen. (see: Godzilla, The Birdcage, Along Came Polly, etc.)
Preston and Janssen have a whole lot of fun playing a pair of goofily endearing lesbians, desperately hoping to earn some respect from a family laden with windbags and horndogs.
Debra Winger (welcome back, Deb!) jumps into her role as 'repressed she-devil shrew from Hell' with enjoyable gusto...
Bradford offers the same off-kilter charm that he displayed in silly stuff like Bring It On...
Headly, Laurie, Torn, heck even the lovely Paget Brewster earns giggles in her one and only scene!
So why's this a three-star flick and not something a little more special?
There's no backbone, no stucture, no real 'through-line'. Eulogy isn't "about" much more than a tenuously-connected series of fairly enjoyable episodes. The movie's funny in the way that a pretty good episode of Saturday Night Live is funny. But one doesn't legitimately expect a cohesive narrative from SNL; a movie should certainly have one. Beyond the "crabby family reunites for a funeral" concept, well, that's pretty much it. Even the finale, which meekly attempts some semblance of legitimate warmth, is marred by a "big, loud bang" punchline that pretty much negates any sincerity that may have come before.
It also doesn't help that the first act sets up a decidedly acidic and enjoyable tone of verbal banter, yet there are several attempts at embarrassingly poor 'physical shctick' that crop up later on. Venemous dialogue and pie-in-the-face antics are an uneasy mixture at best, and that's never been clearer than in one atrocious scene that sees a grandmother thrown from a moving car. This bit is not only sadly unfunny, but it sucks all the wind from a film that needn't resort to such broad stupidity.
If you already have Ray Romano, Zooey Deschanel, Debra Winger and Hank Azaria under your employ, you simply don't need big, broad and cartoonish strokes; just point your camera at the actors, lose the 'fatty fall down' gags, sit back and enjoy the show.If you're a fan of even half of the cast members listed above, "Eulogy" is certainly worthy of your 90-some minutes. Go in expecting not much more than a lot of breathless actors verbally sparring and sniping with each other, and you'll probably have a pretty good time.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=8508&reviewer=128
originally posted: 01/27/04 10:03:41
|OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.