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Eulogy Reviews

Filmmaker Michael Clancy, who reportedly sold screenplays for a decade without seeing any of them produced, finally made his directing debut with his uninspired comedy of familial dysfunction. How Clancy assembled such a strong cast of name actors, including Ray Romano, Hank Azaria, Zooey Deschanel, Piper Laurie, Debra Winger, Famke Janssen, Glenne Headly and Rip Torn (though not Winona Ryder, who was announced as cast shortly after her 2003 conviction for shoplifting; Monica Potter also apparently dropped out) is a mystery. The death of Edmund Collins (Rip Torn) draws his four adult children — failed actor Daniel (Azaria), whose career peaked with a peanut-butter commercial when he was 8; sleazy lawyer Skip (Romano); controlling, motor-mouthed housewife Alice (Winger) and lesbian Lucy (Kelly Preston) — plus various significant others and offspring home for a cut-rate Viking funeral. A cheap pine box, a rowboat, a pond, some flaming arrows... just a simple, dignified send-off for a man who was rarely home and whom no one much liked when he was. Alice's husband and children, battered into silence by her relentless barrage of advice, criticism and unsolicited observations about what's wrong with everyone but her, lurk in the background. while Grandma Charlotte (Laurie) tries to commit suicide and granddaughter Katie (Deschanel), Daniel's amazingly grounded, college-age child, works on the eulogy and her awkward romance with local cutie Ryan (Jesse Bradford). The adults make public scenes, smoke dope, air decades-old dirty laundry, rattle skeletons in the family closet and occasionally come to blows. Lucy and her girlfriend, Judy (Janssen), announce that they plan to get married. Katie learns that her mother wasn't a social worker who "died of caring too much" at all; she was a porn star. Naturally Katie — who never knew her mom and is dying for a glimpse, even if it's in a smutty Western — gets caught renting "Vagina Town" at the local video store by Ryan's staid parents. Skip's repellent teenage sons, Fred and Ted (twins Curtis and Keith Garcia), make coarse jokes and try to catch Lucy and Judy up to lesbionic high jinks. Ditsy nurse Samantha (Headly) sneaks Charlotte out of the hospital and renews a relationship that comes as a shock to everyone in the Collins family but will surprise no one else. Bad family gatherings are a comedy-of-discomfort staple, but Clancy's mild farce is nowhere near as bracingly mean-spirited as he apparently thinks, and the occasional amusing one-liner can't compensate for the broad caricatures and awkwardly structured story.