directed by Michael Clancy
(Lions Gate, 2004)

A visit with the Collins family is no place for the faint-hearted.

Eulogy is barely 90 minutes long, yet it packs in an astonishing amount of mean-spirited, gasping, I-can't-believe-they-said-that sibling humor. If that's your kind of thing, add in a funeral for the family patriarch and here we go.

In no particular order, the emotionally stunted Collinses are Daniel (Hank Azaria), a former child actor who now pays the bills as the only clothed performer in porn flicks; Lucy (Kelly Preston), who's brought her girlfriend home for the funeral; Skip (Ray Romano), who can't say anything without turning it into innuendo; Alice (Debra Winger), the viciously uptight and judgmental sister; and Kate (Zooey Deschanel), the granddaughter who's been chosen to deliver the eulogy.

Add to them the theatrically manipulative matriarch (Piper Laurie). Her reaction to her husband's death: she's finally free to do what she wants. Then she swallows some pills to distract everyone.

This is no "let's pretend everything is OK" family. There's no effort to like everyone, and they all have a pretty good sense of what they are.

"Let's try," says Skip to his twin sons as they arrive, "not to be the biggest freaks in the circus." Ah, but there seems to be a competition in that sort of thing.

It's like a bunch of siblings who are stuck at the same fights they had at 14, stunted in a painfully humorous way.

Eulogy covers about 48 hours in the mourning household. And lots happens, from Lucy and her girlfriend announcing their impending wedding ("Levsians!" whisper Skip's gleeful -- and not very well-informed -- twin boys) to Mom's half-hearted and generously overacted suicide attempt, to Kate learning that her mother was not, as she's always been told, a social worker who died because she cared too much.

No. Mom was a porn star.

The grand finale is when the Collinses gather to send Dad off as he wished: ablaze in his boat, floating on a lake. Dad floats away too soon, leaving the twins trying to light the gasoline-saturated coffin with flaming bow-and-arrow from the shoreline as Kate eulogizes the man they thought they knew.

It all wallows in bad taste; it all could go spinning so easily out of control, but director Michael Clancy keeps a tight rein (as tight as the reins on this circus can be kept) and manages to get some honest emotion squirreled in among the bickering, the biting and the back-stabbing.

Makes you get all misty-eyed thinking of your next family reunion.

by Jen Kopf
5 November 2005

Buy it from