Dead Like Me : Life After Death [DVD]

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 that… some sex?). Roxy still wears the police uniform proudly. And Rube…. Wait, where’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 “Chicago Hope” and “Criminal Minds” early departer may have left his phone-off-the-hook for good reason – for as much as our reaping friends have stayed the same, they’ve also changed. And not for the better. Patinkin may have just snuck a look at the shoddy script for this before mouthing ‘No’ to his agent over lunch.

A tongue-in-cheek black comedy that encompassed as much thrills as it did chuckles, Showtime’s “Dead Like Me” 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. Rube’s gone, and his replacement is a slick business named Cameron Kane (played by “Lost” charmer Henry Ian Cusick). Kane couldn’t give a hoot about helping the newly-dead – 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 Herek’s films. He did “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” and “Critters” – two films considered by many to be cult classics. He also did a lot for Disney in the late 80s and early 90s – films like “Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead”, “The Three Mustketeers”, “The Mighty Ducks” and “101 Dalmations”- all good studio fare. He also did the sensational “Mr. Holland’s Opus”, 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 he’s proven here though, as the director of the “Dead Like Me” movie, is that he’s not good at directing sequels – especially sequels that are made on the cheap.

Besides the fact that most (still can’t work out why Laura Harris didn’t return to play Daisy – - does she really have anything else better to do?) of the cast return, this isn’t the “Dead Like Me” we remember. Not even close. It’s much more melodramatic than sarcastic and darkly funny. It also feels tired – from that very first frame it just feels off. It’s also been filmed in Montreal, not Vancouver, and you can tell – not even George’s parent’s house looks the same. It used to be a big sprawling Waltons-style house, now it’s a narrow brownstone. And ‘Happy Time’, George’s place of employment, is now a high-tech looking office – 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 – not to mention waitress Kiffany.

It’s hard to say what, or whom, is mostly to blame for this unaffecting thing but it’s probably mostly to do with the fact that the people behind the film had no association with the series – 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 that’s the extent of their gained knowledge.

There’s a couple of nice scenes between George and her Sister, and also some funny moments with George’s eccentric boss, but by-and-large this is the weak diet version of the full-flavoured cable series.

Extras

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.