By Clint Morris
George is her sarcastic self. Mason is still a cheeky womanizer. Daisy is still high-maintenance and dressed for success (or is thatâ€¦ some sex?). Roxy still wears the police uniform proudly. And Rubeâ€¦. Wait, whereâ€™s Rube!? What the fuck Patinkin! A gnawing itch has provoked an escape plan from this series too!? Does this guy change his mind more than his clothes – -or what!?
Granted, the â€œChicago Hopeâ€ and â€œCriminal Mindsâ€ early departer may have left his phone-off-the-hook for good reason â€“ for as much as our reaping friends have stayed the same, theyâ€™ve also changed. And not for the better. Patinkin may have just snuck a look at the shoddy script for this before mouthing â€˜Noâ€™ to his agent over lunch.
A tongue-in-cheek black comedy that encompassed as much thrills as it did chuckles, Showtimeâ€™s â€œDead Like Meâ€ told of Georgia Lass (Ellen Muth), a discontented college dropout, who is killed by a toilet seat that falls from the MIR space station on her first day at a temp agency. Upon death, she is recruited for a team of grim reapers – undead who mix among them and take people’s souls just before they die. Patinkin played Rube, the leader of the reapers, who George is always at loggerheads with.
The direct-to-video film sequel is set five years after the events of the series. Rubeâ€™s gone, and his replacement is a slick business named Cameron Kane (played by â€œLostâ€ charmer Henry Ian Cusick). Kane couldnâ€™t give a hoot about helping the newly-dead â€“ and his attitude starts to rub off on Daisy (Sarah Wynter replacing Laura Harris) and Mason (Callum Blue). Meanwhile, George (deep-voiced Muth) is about to re-connect with her sister Reggie (Brett McKillop) after her boyfriend is seriously injured in a car accident and George is commissioned to reap him.
I usually like Stephen Herekâ€™s films. He did â€œBill & Tedâ€™s Excellent Adventureâ€ and â€œCrittersâ€ â€“ two films considered by many to be cult classics. He also did a lot for Disney in the late 80s and early 90s â€“ films like â€œDonâ€™t Tell Mom The Babysitterâ€™s Deadâ€, â€œThe Three Mustketeersâ€, â€œThe Mighty Ducksâ€ and â€œ101 Dalmationsâ€- all good studio fare. He also did the sensational â€œMr. Hollandâ€™s Opusâ€, starring Richard Dreyfuss, in the mid 90s. When it came to light, fluffy, sometimes feel-good fare there was nobody better than Stephen Herek.
One thing heâ€™s proven here though, as the director of the â€œDead Like Meâ€ movie, is that heâ€™s not good at directing sequels â€“ especially sequels that are made on the cheap.
Besides the fact that most (still canâ€™t work out why Laura Harris didnâ€™t return to play Daisy – - does she really have anything else better to do?) of the cast return, this isnâ€™t the â€œDead Like Meâ€ we remember. Not even close. Itâ€™s much more melodramatic than sarcastic and darkly funny. It also feels tired â€“ from that very first frame it just feels off. Itâ€™s also been filmed in Montreal, not Vancouver, and you can tell â€“ not even Georgeâ€™s parentâ€™s house looks the same. It used to be a big sprawling Waltons-style house, now itâ€™s a narrow brownstone. And â€˜Happy Timeâ€™, Georgeâ€™s place of employment, is now a high-tech looking office â€“ it just looks wrong. And you really miss seeing Der Waffle Haus, the place the Reapers usually meet up to get their daily work-order â€“ not to mention waitress Kiffany.
Itâ€™s hard to say what, or whom, is mostly to blame for this unaffecting thing but itâ€™s probably mostly to do with the fact that the people behind the film had no association with the series â€“ in fact, I doubt many of them have even seen it. They may have read the back of the DVD sleeve before rolling film on this, but evidently thatâ€™s the extent of their gained knowledge.
Thereâ€™s a couple of nice scenes between George and her Sister, and also some funny moments with Georgeâ€™s eccentric boss, but by-and-large this is the weak diet version of the full-flavoured cable series.
The commentary is probably about the only extra worth bothering with – but on the other hand, Herek and Muth do do a lot of back-slapping in it, so you might want to spare yourself the torture if you didn’t enjoy the film.