Eulogy (2004) / Comedy-Drama

MPAA Rated: R for language, sexual content, and drug use
Running Time: 91 min.

Cast: Zooey Deschanel, Debra Winger, Hank Azaria, Ray Romano, Kelly Preston, Piper Laurie, Famke Janssen, Glenne Headley, Jesse Bradford, Curtis Garcia, Keith Garcia, Rip Torn, Rene Auberjonois
Director: Michael Clancy
Screenplay: Michael Clancy
Review published September 10, 2005

The dysfunctional family of the recently deceased Edmund Collins (Torn, Welcome to Mooseport) comes together to honor their mostly distant father at his funeral, each of them having their own quirks that make them annoying to the rest of the family.  The last rambunctious among them, Kate (Deschanel, Elf), is called upon to write Edmund's eulogy, but she finds it hard to come up with what to say, especially since no one in the family admits to being very close to him -- or even liking him very much.

There's not much one can say about a feature film that plays more like a pilot episode to a potential new TV series.  Perhaps the only thing significant about Eulogy happens to be its interesting mix of character actors.  Some might see the eccentricities of the casting as an asset, but this may be a case of "too many cooks, as everyone vies for precious time, leaving very little emphasis on anything but the shallowest of character developments.  In what should be a whimsical tale of an oddball dysfunctional family, we never really get the sense that we know them, mostly because the chemistry is so absent that none of them really seem to know one another.  It's one of those movies that feels like it should be funnier than it ever is, with some developments that might actually be funnier to hear about than to actually see.

A wealth of subplots distract us just enough to keep the story constantly moving before boredom sets in, although by the end of the film, there isn't exactly that warmth of feeling or familiarity that usually accompanies a movie about family gatherings filled with remarkable revelations.  It certainly doesn't help that the laughs are mostly absent, although first-time writer-director Michael Clancy does aim for the funny bone much more often than he tries to tug on our heartstrings. 

All in all, it's a pleasant enough film to endure, even though it is vacuous, although this kind of material might have been better off being produced for television, where the sitcom antics would seem much more at home.   

Qwipster's rating:

2005 Vince Leo