Just because you’re dead it doesn’t mean that I can’t move in with you.
Year Released : 2009
Director : Stephen Herek
Cast : Ellen Muth, Callum Blue, Jasmine Guy, Britt McKillip, Sarah Wynter, Cynthia Stevenson and Henry Ian Cusick
Here is a first for the website, a movie that very few people have heard of that’s based on a TV show that very few people have heard of. This intro is going to be slightly longer than normal because I have to really describe the premise of “Dead Like Me” so that the plot and the rest of the review makes a bit of sense.
During the early 2000s, one of my favourite TV shows was the dark-comedy that was “Dead Like Me”. It focuses on a girl called Georgia after she is killed by a falling toilet seat and she begins life amongst a group of grim reapers, all whilst having to watch her family try and cope with the death.
As well as Georgia’s initial refusal to play along with her new role, the show also focuses on a few other reapers, each with unique backstories, such as Mason, a Brit from the 1960s who tried to achieve a permanent high by drilling a hole in his head, or Rube, a gangster who’s crimes caught up with him.
“Dead Like Me” was a true gem of a TV show and although it only lasted for two series, it achieved so much in terms of character developed in those two series that it remains one of my favourite TV shows to this day. It is an amazing TV show not just because of it’s dark comedy, but because of some of the more serious moments when some people struggle to deal with the fact they’ve just died, and Georgia’s initial struggles with what she now has to do.
Below is a great clip from early on in the first series where Georgia has refused to reap someone and her boss is far from happy.
But anyway, I digress. The show finished in 2004 after two series and that was the last of it until 2009 when a movie came out, and had it been successful then they would have considered bringing the show back. It wasn’t successful for many reasons, but I’ll get to that in a bit.
After performing his last reap, Rube (who doesn’t appear in the movie) has moved on into the afterlife and has been replaced by Cameron (Cusick) as the head of the reapers. He doesn’t care what happens to the dead after they pass away and things soon start falling apart. Because of this various members of the reaping team conspire to get rid of him via one method or another, made even more difficult by the fact that you can’t really kill someone who is already dead.
Meanwhile, Georgia (Muth) is fired from her job at Happy Times after she harasses a new employee. Things in her personal (after)life are far from simple either as she faces a dilemma that she never thought she would face as Reggie (McKillip) discovers who she is.
Despite Georgia’s desire to connect with her sister, she knows that ultimately they can never enjoy that relationship again, but Reggie struggles to understand.
So why wasn’t it successful?
I think one of the main reasons that “Life After Death” wasn’t successful was not because the TV show was so relatively unknown, but because it departed so much from the tone and nature of the TV show that it had very little in common with it.
It almost felt like the director hadn’t watched a single episode of the TV show because so many factors of the TV show weren’t even referenced in this one. For example, earlier in this review I mentioned that Rube was angry at Georgia for refusing to do what she needed to do and the reason why was because if a soul wasn’t taken before the death then the soul starts to rot along with the decomposing body. This isn’t referenced once in the film on the numerous occasions that the reapers don’t reap someone’s soul before they die.
There were quite a lot of inconsistencies with the TV series and if you’re going to make a movie based on a TV series, it has to be largely still relevant. The character of Daisy is probably the biggest example of this though as the character is NOTHING like her counterpart in the series. Laura Harris did an excellent job in the TV series, bringing a lot of warmth and depth to a character that initially seemed conceited, whereas Sarah Wynter’s portrayal of the character seemed to just go back to being conceited and not develop from there. It could potentially have been because of scheduling conflicts but I think there is a very good reason that Harris didn’t return for this movie.
I’m trying desperately not to compare it to the TV show but it’s almost impossible. The film almost has no centre to it, nothing that keeps you wanting to go back and watch more and more of it. In the 29 TV episodes there were a lot of reasons for keep going back, you developed an emotional connection with each of the characters, and you appreciated the moral lesson behind each episode, whereas the film doesn’t really seem to have a lot of point to it.
It’s not all negative though and what I especially liked about the movie was that it gave both Georgia and Reggie some closure when it came to their relationship. One of the key plot points of the TV show was Reggie trying to deal with Georgia’s death and the various different emotional issues it caused (such as gathering toilet seats and hanging them in the tree) and it’s nice to see a character that was broken and lost finally get some closure and get the chance to say goodbye to Georgia.
There is an excellent scene where Reggie is determined to kill herself because she doesn’t care anymore as everyone she loves keeps dying. She starts driving 85mph towards a shipping container and Georgia tries some reverse psychology by slamming her foot on top of Reggie’s and the car goes to 125mph, only then does Reggie realise that she wants to live and then the two have a frank conversation with each other and share what will probably be there final moments together.
That was one of the few scenes that I truly liked from the movie.
I’m going to move away from comparing it to the TV show and talk about the performances. Ellen Muth is still remarkable as Georgia, she is delightful as the sarcastic and down to earth girl. Muth hasn’t really enjoyed a prolific career in Hollywood as she doesn’t really fit into any categories but she plays this character so incredibly well that you warm to her very quickly. Even early on in the TV series, where she is an immature, teenage girl, you still feel a connection to her character because she feels very real.
Blue is still as charismatic as Mason as he was in the TV series, and whilst his character is actually quite deplorable, Blue’s performance brings him to life and he represents a very reluctant anti-hero character so incredibly well.
I must admit that I was disappointed by the performance of Henry Ian Cusick though. He played Desmond in “Lost” and was one of the stand out actors from that TV show, and despite being the most famous actor to appear in “Life After Death”, he doesn’t really live up to his star billing as he doesn’t really seem to enjoy playing his character, although to be fair the character isn’t very well developed at all. Cusick played Desmond with such passion that he became one of the central characters of “Lost”, but in this it felt like he stumbled onto the set one day and thought “Ooooooh, I can do this!” He’s a poor replacement for Rube from the TV show…….
You know, I can’t continue this review without consistently comparing it to the TV show and I’m finding it very difficult not to keep going back to it, so I’m just going to leave it here.
To be honest, even as a fan of the TV show I found it very hard to like the movie. It lacks a lot of what made the TV show so enjoyable. Whilst it wouldn’t have made an awful made for TV movie if it was a stand alone movie and not related to anything, ultimately it fails to deliver enough to keep fans of the TV show interested.
If you were going to watch the movie then I would recommend watching the TV show first because if you watched the movie first then you wouldn’t want to watch what it’s based on, and that is an injustice.
Is it awful? No,not overly, but I can’t go that much higher than being average, at best.