Very few shows get life after death. Fans hope for it; they create petitions and campaigns to try and make it happen; but for every Family Guy second chance, there are many beloved shows that never get another moment to shine – and sometimes that’s a good thing.
Five years after the end of the final, second season of Dead Like Me, we’ve got a sequel film – Dead Like Me: Life After Death. Rube (Mandy Patinkin) has gone into the light, the waffle house has burned down, and the reapers have to deal with the new, and quite controversial ideas of businessman and new head reaper, Cameron Kane.
On paper, it all seems the same. George (Ellen Muth) is still struggling with what it means to be a reaper while working at Happy Time, her mother and sister are still trying to find their paths in life (but without her father, who has since moved away), and her fellow reapers still have their own agendas – Roxy’s focused on her work, Cameron is still lured by money and women, and Daisy still wants to be a star. In actuality, however, the film doesn’t feel like Dead Like Me.
Aside from the absence of Rube, Sarah Wynter had taken over the role of Daisy Adair. Unfortunately, where Laura Harris used subtle mannerisms and naturalness to bring Daisy to life, Wynter’s performance is flamboyant, and ultimately, unbelievable and trite. The actress can handle the comedy of the role, but she’s simply not Daisy Adair, and the film would have been much better off if Daisy was just replaced with a different character, just as Harris replaced Rebecca Gayheart.
Shot in Montreal rather than Vancouver like the show, the new sets and locales offer a different and jarring feel that further upsets familiarity, whether it’s the high-tech new office of Happy Time, or the fact that George’s family home is no longer a sprawling suburban house, but a narrow brownstone.
Furthermore, rather than always clinging to that sarcasm we love, there’s a certain tiredness and melodrama to the characters and story now, with less sarcasm and more scenes scored with soft, dramatic music. Camaraderie under Rube worked. In this film, it feels too performed and rarely organic.
These might seem like nitpicky points, but they come together in a whole that is, simply, off. Life After Death seems more like an attempt to understand or capture the magic of the show, rather than a fitting and knowledgeable send-off. As if all of this wasn’t enough, the film is further hurt by the fact that its basic premise is something we’ve already seen. Right away in the first season, George learned why reaping was important, and the repercussions of ignoring her duty. However, here we are six years later, and the reapers are flubbing reaps and rebelling under Kane, as if they’re innocent to the consequences.
However, some things never change. Crystal’s still the watchful eye of Happy Time while Dolores and Herbig brown eyes are focused on her beloved feline Murry. Mason is still enamored with Daisy (although you can no longer see the sad reciprocation or rejection in her eyes). Reggie is still struggling with her identity, and now she’s the secret love of a football star. He is not only dating the popular girl (played by 90210’s Shenae Grimes), but is also a doomed soul George has to reap.
Beyond the feature, there are two special features and a ridiculously short trailer for The Riches. First, there’s a commentary by Herek and Muth. It holds a lot of information (like the fact that Wynter and Harris played sisters on 24), but there’s also a lot of “they’re really amazing” congratulatory talk – which will be fine if you love the feature, but a bit aggravating if you don’t. This is followed by the featurette called “Back from the Dead: Resurrecting Dead Like Me.” Like the commentary, it’s a lot of talk about how the actors love to be back, and how wonderfully everyone worked out.
All in all, Dead Like Me: Life After Death is a mediocre attempt to bring closure to a story many of us loved. The moments that seem most like the show work well, and offer a glimmer of that series we used to love, but the more the film diverges, the more it fails – ultimately making Life After Death little more than a weak and unnecessary continuation.
Film – 6/10
DVD – 7/10