2007, US/UK, directed by Frank Oz
I often feel that the farce is more dependent than almost any other genre on the complicity of the audience: if you're not in the mood, or if the actors don't nail the timing to the millisecond, the entire exercise is pointless, but if things go smoothly then the cascading effect takes over and it's hard to resist once you give in to the first sheepish laugh. I saw a production of the 1960s farce Boeing Boeing last year in London, and for the first five minutes I was wondering what I had signed us up for, since my wife and parents had entrusted me with the choice of entertainment. But the actors quickly took over, got the thing humming, cranked up through the gears, and any second thoughts were quickly forgotten.
Death at a Funeral doesn't quite reach those heights - it needs a good deal longer to get the engine warm, for starters, and it occasionally feels a little too perfectly planned, without the ever-present sense of high-wire bravado that comes with live theatre - but it's still a fine example of the genre, with an additional tingle of morbidity given that almost the entire film takes place at a funeral where everything - and I mean everything - that could go wrong inevitably does. It's not always especially subtle - you can see some plot developments a mile off, while some of the cruder material simply comes off as crass - but the performances generally steer things back on the rails whenever things threaten to go too haywire: Kris Marshall, Alan Tudyk (perhaps best known as Wash in Firefly/Serenity) and Andy Nyman are especially funny, while Matthew Macfadyen is a fine straight man.