When Hollywood director Don Tyler (Sutherland) collapses in the middle of shooting a remake of "The Last Emperor" in China's Forbidden City, his dying wish is that Chinese director YoYo (You) gives him a "comedy funeral" in which his death and reincarnation will be a joyous rather than sad occasion.
So the bewildered YoYo tries to come up with a fitting tribute to this great man, deciding to turn Tyler's funeral into an international TV event.
However, without any cash to pay for the proceedings, YoYo decides to sell advertising space to the highest bidder.
Before he knows what's happening, the comedy funeral has become exactly that, as everyone from soft drinks companies to coffee shops and restaurants are buying up space on the hearse, the coffin, and even the body, to plug their products.
Much like Zhang Yimou's recent entrepreneurial comedy "Happy Times", this Chinese-Hong Kong co-production focuses on the immense economic upheaval occurring in the People's Republic as the effects of global capitalism begin to make themselves felt.
Overcome by the power of the dollar, YoYo spirals out of control until he's driven mad by the schizophrenic demands of the market place. And, as his name suggests, he ends up bouncing back and forth between making money and honouring Tyler's wishes.
It's just a shame that writer-director Feng Xiaogang can't keep up with the events his script puts into motion.
Lacking the comic energy to see it through to the end, "Big Shot's Funeral" fast disintegrates into a series of semi-coherent scenes.
These may well be in keeping with YoYo's confusion, but do little to convince us that Xiaogang's got anything much to say about the momentous changes China's facing.
This really is a missed opportunity.