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The Burial (2024): An Underdog Story Six Feet Above the Rest

Inspired by true events, when a handshake deal goes sour, funeral home owner Jeremiah O'Keefe (Academy Award® winner Tommy Lee Jones) enlists charismatic, smooth-talking attorney Willie E. Gary (Academy Award® winner Jamie Foxx) to save his family business. Tempers flare and laughter ensues as the unlikely pair bond while exposing corporate corruption and racial injustice in this inspirational, triumphant story.

Ah, funeral homes. Not exactly the cheeriest backdrop for a movie, right? But leave it to Jamie Foxx and Tommy Lee Jones to turn the business of burials into a courtroom comedy that'll make you laugh while pondering the price of death. "The Burial" is a fascinating blend of corporate corruption, race relations, and the ever-inspiring underdog story. It's a David vs. Goliath tale, only in this version, David wears a snappy suit and Goliath is a corporation that practically sells coffins for your wallet.

The Plot

The film, based on true events, follows the story of Jeremiah O'Keefe (Tommy Lee Jones), a funeral home owner who finds himself knee-deep in legal drama when a handshake deal goes south with a funeral conglomerate looking to bury the competition—pun intended. Enter Willie E. Gary (Jamie Foxx), a charismatic attorney with a knack for courtroom theatrics and a wardrobe that makes Liberace look modest.

Together, this unlikely duo fights against a corporation looking to put O'Keefe's family business six feet under. They expose corruption and racial injustice, all while sharing a few laughs and maybe a drink or two. Jurnee Smollett adds depth to the cast as Mame Downes, a determined and sharp-witted member of Gary's team. If you've ever wondered what happens when a smooth-talking lawyer and a grumpy funeral director join forces, "The Burial" is your answer.

What I Liked

Let's start with Tommy Lee Jones. The man is like a fine wine; he gets better with age. His portrayal of O'Keefe is layered, with the right balance of vulnerability and tenacity. I mean, if you're going to trust anyone to fight for your funeral home, it's this grizzled Marine-turned-undertaker. The guy's seen everything from Japanese fighter planes to shady corporate deals, and he handles both with the same stoic glare. I swear, even the Grim Reaper would back off if Tommy Lee Jones was giving him the stink eye.

Jamie Foxx, on the other hand, is a different breed altogether. He brings Willie E. Gary to life with all the flair and panache of a gospel preacher crossed with a used-car salesman. There's a line somewhere between charismatic and over-the-top, and Foxx dances on it like it's the best game of hopscotch he's ever played. At times, Gary seems more like a televangelist than a lawyer, but it fits the story like a tailored suit. If this character was any more colorful, he'd need a Crayola endorsement.

And then there's Jurnee Smollett. Her performance as Mame Downes is the perfect counterbalance to Foxx's Gary. She's sharp, witty, and holds her own against the big boys. The chemistry between her, Foxx, and Jones makes you want to root for the good guys from the first objection.

Beyond the performances, the movie offers an interesting take on race relations, albeit through the lens of an underdog lawyer story. It's refreshing to see the issue tackled from a different perspective, focusing on corporate corruption and justice in a context where money is the ultimate decider of right and wrong. The courtroom drama is sprinkled with enough humor to keep things light, even as serious issues are addressed.

What I Disliked

However, not everything is embalmed to perfection in "The Burial." Sometimes the characters can feel a bit over the top, as if they'd walked straight out of a daytime courtroom drama. There's a lot of theatrical posturing and a few too many grand gestures. But hey, when your story is centered on a lawyer who owns a private jet called "Wings of Justice," subtlety isn't exactly the name of the game.

The pacing also wavers in places, making the film feel a bit long at times. The courtroom scenes are the highlight, but when we're not watching Gary charm the jury or O'Keefe stare down corporate sharks, the movie tends to drag its feet like it's trying to shuffle a funeral procession through quicksand.

Now, if you're a sucker for trivia like me, here are a few fascinating details to chew on:

The real Jeremiah Joseph O'Keefe and Willie E. Gary were born on the exact same date, July 12. What are the odds?

Jerry O'Keefe, besides running funeral homes, was also a Marine pilot during World War II. He shot down five Japanese planes in a single day, becoming an ace overnight. If that wasn't impressive enough, he bagged two more later that week, earning the Navy Cross and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Gary is known for his flamboyant style and once even had a private jet named "Wings of Justice," which is both ridiculous and incredible.

Final Thoughts and Rating

Despite the occasional overacting and some pacing issues, "The Burial" is an enjoyable film that delivers more than just laughs. It’s a compelling underdog story set in a world you wouldn’t normally expect. Plus, with Jones and Foxx leading the charge, it's hard not to have a good time. The movie manages to weave themes of corruption, racial injustice, and corporate greed into a narrative that's equal parts gripping and hilarious.

My final rating? 7.4/10. It’s worth a watch if you’re into courtroom dramas with a twist, or if you're just a sucker for an unlikely buddy story that gives the finger to corporate America.

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