In England, Daniel (Matthew Macfadyen) and his wife Jane (Keeley Hawes) live with his parents, while Daniel's brother Robert (Rupert Graves) is a renowned novelist living in New York City. The story begins on the day of their father's funeral. Robert arrives, having flown First Class, but declines to help finance the funeral, leaving Daniel to cover all the expenses. As guests begin to arrive, Daniel struggles to complete a eulogy, even though everyone expects Robert the writer will be the one to deliver it.
Daniel's cousin Martha (Daisy Donovan) and her fiancé Simon (Alan Tudyk) are desperate to make a good impression on Martha's father Victor (Peter Egan). Their hopes for doing so are dashed when Martha, hoping to calm Simon's nerves, gives him what she believes is Valium but is actually a hallucinogenic designer drug manufactured by her brother Troy (Kris Marshall), a pharmacy student.
An American dwarf named Peter (Peter Dinklage) introduces himself to Daniel, who is too busy to speak to him at that moment and suggests they talk later. The service begins and the hallucinating Simon, certain he sees the coffin moving, tips it over, causing the body to spill out onto the floor. During the ensuing chaos, Simon is told why he is acting as he is, so he panics and locks himself in the bathroom. Martha tries to persuade him to open the door while fending off the unwelcome advances of Justin (Ewen Bremner), with whom she once had a one-night stand that she would like to forget. Simon climbs onto the roof, naked, and threatens to jump.
While most of the guests are watching Simon on the roof, Peter meets privately with Daniel and Robert and reveals he was their father's lover. Unhappy that he was left nothing in their father's will, Peter shows them compromising photographs, trying to blackmail the family for £15,000. The brothers panic, bind and gag Peter, and give him what they believe is Valium to calm him down. Peter manages to free himself, but falls and hits his head on a glass coffee table. Troy and germaphobic family friend Howard (Andy Nyman) believe Peter to be dead. Forced to dispose of the body as quickly and surreptitiously as possible, Daniel and Robert place it in the casket with their father.
The service resumes, and Daniel's awkward eulogy is interrupted when the still-alive Peter leaps from the coffin and the photos fall out for everyone, including the widow, Sandra (Jane Asher), to see. Daniel demands everyone stay calm and declares his father was a good man, although clearly one with secrets, and proceeds to deliver an impromptu tribute.
In the evening, after all the mourners (including Peter) have left, Robert tells Daniel that he plans on taking their mother to New York so that Daniel and Jane can finally buy their own flat. Their conversation is interrupted when Jane tells them that Uncle Alfie (Peter Vaughan) had a panic attack over Simon, so she gave him some "Valium". The film ends with Uncle Alfie on the roof, naked, as Simon had been.Matthew Macfadyen as Daniel
Rupert Graves as Robert
Andy Nyman as Howard
Kris Marshall as Troy
Peter Dinklage as Peter
Keeley Hawes as Jane
Daisy Donovan as Martha
Alan Tudyk as Simon
Ewen Bremner as Justin
Peter Vaughan as Uncle Alfie
Thomas Wheatley as The Reverend
Jane Asher as Sandra
Peter Egan as Victor
The film was shot at Ealing Studios in London. It premiered at the European Film Market in February 2007 and was shown at the US Comedy Arts Festival, the Seattle International Film Festival, the Breckenridge Film Festival, the Maui Film Festival, the Sydney Film Festival, the Provincetown International Film Festival, and the Tremblant Film Festival before going into limited release in the United States on 17 August 2007. It opened throughout Europe, Asia, South America, and Australia before going into theatrical release in the United Kingdom on 2 November 2007.
At Rotten Tomatoes, the film scored 61%, according to 124 critics, with the consensus "Death at a Funeral is a rousing British farce, with enough slapstick silliness to overcome its faults."
Ruthe Stein of the San Francisco Chronicle said the film is "in the tradition of those classics, in black-and-white and starring Peter Sellers or Alec Guinness, in which disasters keep piling up, each one more drolly funny than the last. That's high praise for Death but no more than it deserves. The humor manages to be simultaneously sophisticated, supremely silly and very dark...The casting couldn't be better. With no big stars to upset the balance, the actors work together as a true ensemble, the best since Little Miss Sunshine."
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times rated it three out of four stars and commented, "The movie is part farce (unplanned entrances and exits), part slapstick (misbehavior of corpses) and part just plain wacky eccentricity. I think the ideal way to see it would be to gather your most dour and disapproving relatives and treat them to a night at the cinema."
Sid Smith of the Chicago Tribune called the film "lethal farce, combining hints of The Lavender Hill Mob, doses of Joe Orton and a smidgen of the Farrelly brothers' scatology in its mix." He added, "The sibling rivalry/resolution meant to give the movie its sweet, heartfelt thread is weak, and there are stretches in which the comedy sags or settles for the predictable. But Death provides an adult tonic in a season typically abandoned to the comic book cocktail. There are worse ways to escape the August heat."
Steve Dollar of the New York Sun said, "The ensemble approach allows for a maximum of comic scenarios to be put into effect, as the film's motor revs into higher and higher gear. Expert pacing and delivery, as well as the abundance of hyper-articulate, over-educated, effervescently British character types, ratchet up the cringe factor accordingly. The film's antic disposition, or rather its disposition toward antics, may strike some as an exercise in overkill, even though, curiously, the film disappointingly resolves all the comic trauma by letting everyone off the hook. Moreover, a lot of the material, especially the closeted-gay jokes, seems dated. But for Mr. Oz, finger-snap pacing and an expert cast (surely familiar to any BBC America viewer) bring this Death to giddy life."
Philip French of The Observer said the film, "in which a fine British cast is wasted on feeble material, is directed by Frank Oz in less than wizardly form."
Phelim O'Neill of The Guardian rated it two out of five stars and commented, "Scientists believe that black holes can slow down the progress of time. A similar effect can be felt by viewers of this damp squib of a farce as it grinds on from one lame set-up to the next. This sort of sub-Alan Ayckbourn trawl might work on stage but never on the big screen, where all the deficiencies of the form are thrown into sharp relief. From Oz downwards, the credits are full of familiar names foolishly squandering the goodwill their past works have generated."
The film eventually earned $46,600,669, split $8,580,428 in North America and the equivalent of $38,020,241 in other markets. It opened in 260 theatres in the United States on 17 August 2007 and grossed $1,282,973 on its opening weekend, ranking #17 at the box office.
Director Frank Oz won the Audience Award at both the US Comedy Arts Festival and the Locarno International Film Festival.
The Region 1 DVD was released on 26 February 2008. Viewers have the option of watching the film in either anamorphic widescreen or fullscreen format. It has audio tracks in English and Spanish and subtitles in English, Spanish, and Cantonese. Bonus features include two audio commentaries: one with Frank Oz and another with screenwriter Dean Craig and cast members Alan Tudyk and Andy Nyman, and a gag reel.
In 2009, a Hindi remake of the film, entitled Daddy Cool, was released starring Sunil Shetty, Aashish Chaudhary, and Rajpal Yadav.
In 2010, Chris Rock, Tracy Morgan, and Martin Lawrence starred in a US remake of the same name, directed by Neil LaBute. Peter Dinklage returned to play the role of Peter, although the character was renamed Frank. The film was released on 16 April 2010 to mixed reviews.