Any movie that features Sutherland, an actor who is noted for his imperial manner on set, playing a megalomaniacal director ought be funny. "Big Shot's Funeral," however, drops the ball on that and on any other clever idea its script contains. It's a frantic, distinctly flat farce that fails to wring any effective comedic variations on China's new capitalism, the country's attitudes towards Hollywood and America or on the changing face of its religious observances. It also leaves most of its actors high and dry, especially Sutherland and actor/director Paul Mazursky, who is wasted as a pushy producer. Ge You as Yo Yo, the videographer, who sets the plot in motion, is just monotonously bad in the lead and particularly ineffectual opposite Rosamund Kwan, as Tyler's Chinese-American assistant, with whom he falls in love.
"Big Shot's Funeral" displays so little sense of style or character that it feels patched together, as if it's being made up as it goes along. Even the film within the film and the scenes that blur the line between "reality" and "artifice" are handled unimaginatively. Apparently, director Feng Xiaogang is considered a top Chinese director of comedies but, if so, his funny bone's gone missing here. Starring Ge You, Rosamund Kwan, Donald Sutherland and Paul Mazursky. Directed by Feng Xiaogang. Written by Feng Xiaogang, Li Xiaoming and Shi Kang. Produced by Wang Zhongjun, He Ping and Tong Gang. A Sony Pictures Classics release. Comedy. English- and Chinese-language, subtitled. Rated PG for thematic elements, language and brief partial nudity. Running time: 100 min.