Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.
USA, 2001. Bates Entertainment, Fox Searchlight Pictures, The Turman-Morrissey Company. Screenplay by David Dean Bottrell, Jessie Jones, based on their play Dearly Departed. Cinematography by Francis Kenny. Produced by Edward Bates, John Morrissey. Music by Tyler Bates, John E. Rhone. Production Design by Simon Dobbin. Costume Design by Francine Jamison-Tanchuck. Film Editing by Richard Halsey.
Even for a comedy about death this one feels awfully glum. Whoopi Goldberg plays the matriarch of an extended family whose members turn inside out when their “Mean and Surly” grandfather dies, leaving two sons (LL Cool J, Anthony Anderson) to deal with the problems that have divided them for too many years. Vivica A. Fox (in a surprisingly disappointing performance) and Jada Pinkett Smith (who tries to be charming but ends up going over the top) play their wives. The film’s best moments come from the very funny Loretta Devine as the ultra religious and highly exasperated aunt whose dresses always match her Bible. Beyond that the film has no real moments of tenderness, no exposition of character depth, nor much payoff in the end. Considering it is Goldberg’s first major role in almost four years, one would hope the writers would have given her something meatier to work with.