Farce meets fascism in The Death of Stalin, a spoof of the power struggle that took place around Joseph Stalin’s last days, from director and political satirist Armando Iannucci (In the Loop, Veep). There is impeccable timing in the performances and plenty of big laughs (the committee members stumbling to transport Stalin’s incapacitated body from his office to his bed, jockeying for political position in the process, is a supreme bit of slapstick). Yet the chuckles get hollower and hollower as the reality of the atrocities committed by the regime sinks in. That’s likely the movie’s point—and I do think it maintains an admirable balance of gallows humor and clear-eyed history—but as The Death of Stalin goes on, its cleverness withers into something more wearying. With Adrian McLoughlin (briefly) as Stalin; Jeffrey Tambor as Georgy Malenkov, his deer-in-the-headlights successor; Steve Buscemi as Nikita Khrushchev, who would ultimately emerge as the face of the Soviet Union; and Simon Russell Beale, at turns sputteringly funny and spine-tinglingly evil as Lavrenti Beria, the head of Stalin’s secret police.