Starring: Hank Azaria, Jesse Bradford, Zooey Deschanel, Glenne Headly, Famke Janssen, Piper Laurie, Kelly Preston, Ray Romano, Rip Torn, Debra Winger
Directed by: Michael Clancy
I first saw a trailer for this online years ago, before its theatrical release, and thought it looked funny, giving off a Royal Tenenbaums vibe. Then I read some reviews, and decided it best if I skipped it. A couple friends thought it pretty good, but… I don’t necessarily agree with them very often. But, it was on Movie Central HD last week, so I figured it wouldn’t cost me anything more than my time, and require no more effort to watch than pushing the record button on my PVR once, then play later.
As it turns out, it STILL wasn’t worth the time and effort I put into watching it. I can’t remember watching a comedy that tried so visibly to be funny, yet failed so spectacularly. It’s not that the movie is completely without laughs, it’s that the amount of effort the cast and script puts into being funny doesn’t commiserate in the slightest with the amount of humour on display. Each performer works very hard to one up their fellow performer, believing that competitive scene-stealing will make up for the lack of chemistry throughout. Sadly, there are no scenes worth stealing, so the whole effort falls flat.
Eulogy tells the tale of the Collins family, who gather together upon the death of their father (Rip Torn). The film is centred around the narration of Kate (Zooey Deschanel, the only highlight in a film of lowlights), daughter of former child actor Daniel (Hank Azaria) and the only likable character in this family of misfits. The rest of the family is made up of control freak Alice (Debra Winger), loutish Skip (Ray Romano), lesbian Lucy (Kelly Preston) and her partner Judy (Famke Janssen), and mother Charlotte (Piper Laurie). We follow this collection of predictable dysfunction through the incredibly predictable motions of this movie, which feels like every dysfunctional family movie that has come out in the past ten years.
Everything about this movie is contrived and unoriginal. Which would be somewhat acceptable if the jokes worked, but they don’t. What’s worse is that they work so hard to create a black comedy atmosphere, going after shock value humour that doesn’t shock at all, then try to work in some sentiment every once in a while with Kate and a budding romance with her childhood friend Ryan (Jesse Bradford). The sentiment is totally misplaced and plods along. What they should’ve done, if they were going to populate the movie with one dimensional caricatures anyway, is constantly go for the humour, as absurdly and often as possible, à la Arrested Development. Of course, then they’d have to hire funnier performers and write a better script. A better director probably would’ve helped as well. Dammit, why’d I waste my time watching this when there were episodes of Arrested Development unwatched in my DVD player?