Thursday, July 9, 2009

Film Review: DEAD LIKE ME- LIFE AFTER DEATH (2009, Stephen Herek)

Stars: 1.5 of 5.
Running Time: 87 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Director Stephen Herek (CRITTERS, BILL AND TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE, MR. HOLLAND'S OPUS), Ellen Muth, Callum Blue, Henry Ian Cusick (Desmond on LOST), Christine Willes, Cynthia Stevenson, Jasmine Guy, Crystal Dahl.
Tag-lines: None.
Best one-liner: None.

In the DEAD LIKE ME pilot, there's a pivotal scene where Rube explains to George the realization that washes over you as you see your own corpse: "It’s like looking at a bowl of homemade peach cobbler you just dropped on the floor. As good as it might have been, you just don’t want it anymore." I was once extremely excited by the prospect of a DEAD LIKE ME movie, but now Rube's statement applies perfectly: no need to desecrate it any further; please take this mess away and give it a proper burial.

They even waste Henry Ian Cusick.

The original series worked so well because of the characters. When we first met each of our protagonists, they were presented as something of a caricature (Roxy the badass, Mason the druggie, Daisy the ingenue, Dolores the lackey), but as the series continued, the excellent writing and acting gave each of these comedic archetypes extraordinary depth. Dolores was transformed from office sycophant to a sweet, motherly force; Daisy went from icy bitch to a somber woman whose motivations you completely understood. Each and every character (even Kiffany!) metamorphosed into something wonderfully complex, and in the process became truly beloved; the sort of achievement that serialized storytelling always aims for, but rarely attains.

LIFE AFTER DEATH (in addition to replacing 'Daisy' with a grotesque impersonator) takes everything back to square one. Everyone's a cardboard cut-out of their former selves; not possessing even a shred of depth or dignity.

What doesn't belong here?

Meet the new 'Daisy'....

...and the new 'UnGeorge.'


Rube (Mandy Patinkin), the show's true anchor, is MIA (maybe he read the script?), as is the poignant Stewart Copeland score. There's no Waffle Haus, or ANY original locations, which had almost become characters themselves. The relationship between George and Reggie (does she know that her sister is undead?), which was beautifully tip-toed around for 2 seasons, finds “resolution” with some of the most hamfisted bullshit I have even seen.  Everybody involved deserved a lot better.

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