Described by its producer/star Chris Rock as not so much a remake as a “cover song,” the new version of “Death at a Funeral” closely follows the 2007 British original.

This time, the family gathering for the funeral of its patriarch is an African-American clan in Los Angeles, but the story remains the same: a pair of grown brothers (Rock, Martin Lawrence) uneasily competing for the limelight; a cousin (Zoe Saldana) whose fiance (James Marsden) accidentally ingests a hallucinogenic just before the funeral; a cranky, elderly uncle (Danny Glover) with toilet issues; a grieving widow (Loretta Devine) who takes time to chide her daughter-in-law (Regina Hall) about not having any children; a mysterious stranger (Peter Dinklage) who reveals the dead man’s carefully guarded secret — and wants something in return.

Directed by Neil LaBute, the story unfolds at a manic pace over a single afternoon, with everything (almost) getting magically and implausibly sorted out by its end.

And, thanks to some very funny performers, there are definitely laughs throughout. Devine gives a delicious twist to the line “You can’t understand death until you’ve given life” — aimed, of course, at that long-suffering daughter-in-law.

Marsden, eyes popping as if he’s attempting to turn himself inside out, mines the fiance’s predicament for all it’s worth.

Rock, as the family’s unexpected voice of reason (told that the uncle is always in a bad mood, he replies “It’s not a mood if you’re always in it”), provides a likable center off which the others bounce.

Unfortunately, virtually every subplot — particularly Marsden’s — runs out of steam long before the movie’s over, as LaBute and screenwriter Dean Craig wring laughs from an extended bathroom scene. (Hollywood comedies — and quite possibly British ones as well — are apparently required by law to have a tacky toilet scene, but this one’s over-the-top even by current standards.)

And there’s something troubling about Dinklage’s character (why is he blackmailing the family of someone he cared about?) that’s never explained.

A mixed bag, “Death at a Funeral” has moments of real wit — and moments when you envy the corpse.


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