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DVD Review: Dead Like Me – Life After Death

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Five years ago, Showtime had a delightfully quirky hour-long called Dead Like Me. The show starred Ellen Muth as George Lass, and 18-year-old girl who was killed in a freak accident: a toilet seat falls from an airplane mid-flight, zooms down to Earth, where it strikes George and kills her instantly. George becomes a grim reaper, charged with harvesting the souls of the about-to-be-deceased before they actually die, to spare them pain.

After two seasons, the show was abruptly cancelled. There were rumors that it was going to be picked up by another network, but that never happened. Instead, they did a direct-to-DVD movie: Dead Like Me – Life After Death. Most of the original cast is back: Roxy, the tough-as-nails metermaid reaper; Mason, the British wanna-be punk reaper; Dolores, George’s boss; Reggie, George’s little sister, and George’s mom. Daisy, the Southern belle reaper who died on the set of Gone With The Wind and who would blow anybody who could get her an acting role, was recast and lost her accent. Rube, who was originally played by Mandy Patinkin and who was the boss-man-father-figure-reaper of their little clan, did not return. Rather than just recast Rube, they brought in a new character, Cameron (played by Lost's Henry Ian Cusick), to run the group. Cameron is a swarthy businessman who doesn’t have the love that Rube had.

The plot of this movie is a bit scattered. It is part filling in new viewers, part catching old viewers up, part wrapping up old storylines, and part exploring new ones. When the quartet of reapers find out that their beloved Rube has crossed over and no longer needs to reap, they start breaking the rules.

Rule #1: reap the souls before they die. Roxy breaks it; she saves a drowning man’s life and garners a promotion within the police department. Rule #2: guide your soul to the light. Daisy breaks it; her reaped soul “haunts” the salon he died in, driving away customers. Rule #3: do not interfere with the living. Mason breaks it; after he reaps the soul of a convenience-store clerk who is shot by a robber, Mason stands up to the criminal with the intention of stealing the register money, and freaks out the robber when he tries to shoot Mason and nothing happens. Rule #4 is not to have contact with your former life. George breaks it; she finally reaches out to her sister Reggie, who has been having a miserable time since her older sister died. In the series, the two cross paths on occasion, but this time, George tells Reggie she is her sister, and George guides her through the death of Reggie’s boyfriend – whose soul George is to reap.

The movie is quite enjoyable, but there is something not right about it. The plot is a bit jumbled; the first-act exposition for Dead Like Me newbies is not particularly sophisticated. More than anything, the chemistry feels off. Maybe Rube was holding the group together. Mason seems more devilish and less charm, and the new Daisy just doesn’t have the same adorable self-absorption. Extras are not interesting: your standard director/cast commentary, and a documentary on how they resurrected Dead Like Me (which was half-interesting. Hearing the creatives talk about how they pulled the movie together was interesting; hearing the actors talk about how they ”got back into character” was less interesting). Dead Like Me – Life After Death is worth the rental, but not worth a purchase.

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