I need to come up with a new phrase for comedies like Just Buried. Something like "not exactly laugh-out-loud funny, but certainly amiable, clever and diverting enough to warrant some attention." (But something shorter than that wordy mouthful.) Chaz Thorne's Just Buried offers a novel concept, several winning performances, and a few amusing surprises -- but I certainly wouldn't call it a fall-down-on-the-floor laugh riot. And that's OK with me. Sometimes a big batch of small chuckles, a few strong performances and a quietly amusing concept are enough to keep a comedy afloat, and that certainly seems to be the case here.
Jay Baruchel (best known for his hilarious lead performance in the awesome Undeclared) plays a nervous little twitcher of a nerd who inherits his estranged father's funeral home. Our jittery sorta-hero is completely unprepared for the gig: He can't stand to be around corpses, his professional demeanor is lacking at best, and he has this strange habit of bleeding from the nose whenever he gets nervous. But hey, Ollie's still willing to give the old funeral home a shot. (The presence of a lovely mortician called Roberta (Rose Byrne) definitely factors into his decision-making process.) But there's one additional hurdle for poor, unprepared Oliver: A total lack of clientele! Seems that a fancier funeral home one town over has been snatching all the corpse-work, which means Oliver has just inherited one massive failure of a business. Or at least it's failing until Ollie and Roberta accidentally kill a local and use his funeral to kick-start a new business scheme: If this sleepy little burg doesn't produce enough corpses ... perhaps Oliver and Roberta need to get a little more pro-active. And create a few dead bodies of their own!
So Just Buried is obviously one of those "dark comedies" that deal with corpses, sudden deaths, and the ever-present threat of discovery and incarceration. But since Just Buried is also a Canadian flick, writer/director Chaz Thorne strikes an affable balance between broadly gruesome and slyly sunny. And while the premise is somewhat familiar and even a little predictable, I'd be lying if I said that Just Buried didn't have a few clever surprises up its sleeve.
And even during the moments that seem a bit familiar, Thorne's cast shines. The young Mr. Baruchel takes a little warming up to here, but by the time we sink knee-deep into Oliver's corpse-laden activities, we've grown just enough affection for the guy to make the material work. Even better is Australian actress Rose Byrne, who creates a scheming mortician gal who's equal parts lovable, unpredictable ... and maybe just a little creepy. Support work from Graham Greene (as a do-it-all handyman), Nigel Bennett (as a suspicious police chief) and Reagan Pasternak (as Oliver's ditzy stepmom) helps to keep the flick afloat between all the comedic carnage.
So yeah, Just Buried is a slight and light little dark comedy from the land of the maple leaf, but it's also fast-paced and just witty enough to earn 90-some of your minutes. Ms. Byrne steals most of the movie (without even breaking a sweat), but if you're a fan of farces that combine romance, discomfort and homicide into one tasty confection, you could do a lot worse than to search this one out.