Heeb Magazine Reviews
I’m opposed to “finding the Jewish angle” in films, but I’m going to make an
exception in the case of Kevin and Matthew Mcmanus’s Funeral Kings, which
just had its premiere here at SXSW. The film is about a group of Catholic
schoolboys who serve as altar boys at funerals to get out of class. They
then skip out on the school-day to smoke, eat Chinese food and play with
guns. Ah, memories of Hebrew school.
Andy (Dylan Hartigan) and Charlie (Alex Maizus) are best friends who wish
they had more badass cred than their suburban, 14 year-old lives afford
them. They cuss like sailors and talk about tits every chance they get.
Their relationship feels lifted straight out of Superbad, with Andy the
moral grounding to Charlie’s unleashed ego. They are endearing for their
honesty; put a camera on 14 year-old boys when their parents aren’t around
and this is pretty close to what they’d act like. The Mcmanus brothers have
done a great job shaping some genuine kid characters.
The plot thickens when fellow altar server Bobby (Brandon Waltz)
disappears, bringing a locked trunk to Andy’s house before he goes. His
replacement, David (Jordan Puzzo), is a straight-laced movie star who raises
the profile of the otherwise haggard crew. The trunk turns out to be a
pleasure chest, containing a gun, porn, fireworks and other things boys want
to get their hands on. Their adventures continue when they find out a local
personality is actually a drug dealer, they go to a high school party where
they get in sniffing distance of some hotties and they have a brief brush
with violence that leads to some realizations about manhood and
My main complaint with Funeral Kings is that it tries to be too many
films at once. Besides the aforementioned Superbad, there are flecks of
Goodfellas and David Gordon Green’s George Washington splotched throughout.
Wrapping that many emotionally diverse tales into one is a tall order even
for a seasoned filmmaker (this is the Mcmanus brothers’ first feature). Our
heros have enough conflict to mitigate before that violent bit at the end;
it feels as if the filmmakers wanted to cram as many subplots in as
Now about that Jewish angle. There are many universal themes in Funeral
Kings with the Catholic school serving merely as a backdrop for this
youthful coming of age tale. The role of ritual in our upbringing is
something that the film directly deals in. The non-religious sometimes don’t
understand that ritual can exist without belief; if you spend that much time
at church or at Hebrew school, doesn’t that somehow predetermine your
theological stance? The answer, to paraphrase our pubescent protagonists, is
“Fuck no.” Any Jew who says a blessing over a Reuben will understand where
these kids are coming from.
For all it’s flaws, Funeral Kings is an excellent first effort from the
Mcmanus brothers. It’s tough not to fall for these little jerks. I’m hoping
this one gets picked up and seen by a wider audience.