If the movies have taught us anything, it’s that watching neurotics spiral out of control is a good time. In fact, neurotics in distress are right up there with banana peels and falling pianos. Funeral Day, directed by and starring Jon Weinberg, seems to think so, anyway, as it tells the story of Scott (Weinberg), a nervous young man who is convinced he’s going to die of testicular cancer.
It begins on a morning like any other. Scott wakes up, does a quick internal scan for any pain or abnormalities and, as he probably does every morning, finds something wrong. It is easily one of the most terrifying things a man can find on his own body: a lump on his nuts. Scott’s fervor following this discovery is partially due to the fact that his friend, Ken, recently died of cancer, and as any neurotic knows, diseases first infect you through your knowledge of them. This is why Scott won’t go to a doctor and get checked out. Instead, he spends the day fulfilling life-long desires and seeking medical advice from anybody who doesn’t have a medical degree.
“…a nervous young man who is convinced he’s going to die of testicular cancer.”
Conceptually, this sounds entertaining, and, at times, it is. But it’s never as funny or introspective as it wants to be. Scott’s day-long journey brings him into contact with a number of wacky characters, such as his friend who assures him that he merely has “genetically lumpy nuts,” a security guard who writes poetry, and a hippie couple giving out free prostate exams in the park. The comedy of these encounters is front-loaded, in that the situation is comical, but there’s nothing beyond that. Much of the comedy in these scenes consists of reminding the audience how absurd the situation is and Scott’s mild-mannered reactions. There’s are few signs of wit, originality, bite or anything else that makes for an effective comedy.
The movie also attempts to turn Scott’s day into a transformative experience and give him an emotional arch. This doesn’t work, because Scott never learns anything or has any tangible change from one odd encounter to the other. When he has his testicles groped by his neighbor to get a second opinion, Scott leaves in the same state he entered: convinced he’s going to die. It’s not until the hot waitress sleeps with him does he muster up the courage to visit his dead friend’s grave. In other words, there’s no transformative line that can be traced through the film like Alec Guinness uncovering the detonator fuse in The Bridge on the River Kwai. Scott’s conversion happens in spite of the film, not because of it.
“…until the hot waitress sleeps with him does he muster up the courage to visit his dead friend’s grave.”
Funeral Day has its head in the right place, but it simply isn’t able to extract the comedy from its concept, no matter how conducive to comedy that concept is. It relies too heavily on situational humor, which dries up fast, and the quirkiness of its lead character, which is nothing without material. And if any future filmmakers are reading this, don’t try to shoehorn an emotional journey into a story about a neurotic who thinks he’s found a lump on his nuts. That’s like putting raisins on ice cream.
Funeral Day (2018) Directed by Jon Weinberg. Written by Kris Elgstrand. Starring Jon Weinberg, Tygh Runyan, Matt Kohler, Rahnuma Panthaky, Robert Bella, Dominic Rains, Jeremy Radin, Suzi Nakamura, Tyler Labine, Sarah Adina, Ron Butler, Kristin Carey, Jed Rees.
4 out of 10