If you've seen Frank Oz's 2007 British comedy, it feels rather pointless to watch this almost word-for-word remake. Sure, the setting is different, but the uneven mixture of slapstick and sentiment are still here, so newcomers might find it diverting.
Aspiring author Aaron (Rock) is preparing his father's funeral amid all kinds of distractions. His novelist brother Ryan (Lawrence) jets in from New York, but won't help at all. His wife Michelle (Hall) is pushing him to move out from their mother's (Devine) house. The boyfriend (Marsden) of his cousin (Saldana) has just accidentally been given a hallucinogen. Uncle Russell (Glover) is on the rampage. And a small man (Dinklage) has something shocking to announce.
Through all of this, Aaron's hypochondriac best friend Norman (Morgan) tries to maintain some semblance of order. But he's useless.
Like the original, this film opts for silliness instead of black comedy, using gallows humour and gross-out moments to add some edge to the goofy antics of this extended family who all have secrets or private agendas. Although without British stiff upper lips, the film instead uses chuckleheaded characters (the always too-broad Lawrence, the always too-stupid Morgan) to add to the general sense of chaos.
But there are some logical problems with this adaptation: mainly that it's difficult to imagine these people having financial problems or money jealousies when they live in such an enormous mansion. And there's also the huge gap in the plot when the funeral takes an improbable break so all manner of crazy slapstick can take place around the house. All of this conspires to leave the film without a point (at least the British version featured some commentary on class consciousness).
So it helps that the cast is so watchable. Rock underplays his role effectively, which means that his dialog and reactions are often genuinely funny. Marsden steals the film with his charmingly giddy turn as a man who has simply lost control of his mind for a few hours and ends up naked on the roof.
And Short, Dinklage and Hall manage to remain believable as well. But frankly, why is LaBute directing this kind of fluff?