It's quite possible that you never made it to Death at a Funeral this summer. You caught the preview, made a mental note to check it out, and then instead saw Superbad, which opened the same weekend, and forgot all about it. Our fear: What if Academy members did the same? Well, it'd be a shame, because it would mean they missed the worthy performance of Alan Tudyk.
You probably remember Tudyk as Wash from Firefly, or the E! network exec in Knocked Up who tells Katherine Heigl to "tighten," but the El Paso, Texas, native is even funnier as Death's anxious lawyer Simon Smith. Desperate to calm down before seeing his future father-in-law at the titular funeral, his character takes what he thinks is Valium but turns out to be a hallucinogenic cocktail created by his fiancée's brother. Similar scenarios have played out in countless uninspired stoner comedies (and typical Vulture workdays), but Tudyk pushes himself to be more than just a dude acting high. Sure, he marvels at the size of his hands and unspools a roll of toilet paper ("Join the others " he encourages the squares until he sadly reaches the cardboard tube), but Tudyk skillfully translates his character's state of mind to his physical movements and facial expressions, shifting from anxiety to confusion to utter despair.
"[Director Frank Oz] made me do take after take," Tudyk explained to the Orlando Sentinel. "'Oh no, you're higher than that.'" (This probably explains how he ends up naked on the roof.) But even at his most absurd, Tudyk never seems to be overacting; instead, he's just giving the outlandish performance called for in the script, serving as an excellent foil for Matthew Macfayden's grieving straight man, while at the same time conveying concern and affection for the freaked-out fiancée. Yes, Tudyk's had practice with British farce — he took Hank Azaria's place as Lancelot in Broadway's Spamalot — but here, he steals his every scene. Academy, you've nominated a Texan playing a bewildered Brit before, and this side-splitting portrayal also deserves a nod. Alan Tudyk for Best Supporting Actor! (We just hope he doesn't show up in costume.) —Lori Fradkin