When Dead Like Me debuted on cable almost five years ago, it quickly built a rabid fan base that was unfortunately a little on the small side. It was canceled after its second season. However, likely thanks in part to DVD, the show’s profile began to rise. And here we are today and Dead Like Me is joining the ranks of Futurama and Family Guy, having been brought back from the dead with the direct to DVD film . Sadly, the life that made the show so interesting failed to be resuscitated.
The movie picks up where the show left off and in the present day. Everybody’s aged accordingly, which when you think of it is sort of odd considering the reapers are already dead. But I digress. The film continues to center around George Lass (Ellen Muth) who joined the reaping ranks after being struck with a flaming toilet seat falling from the sky. It’s that kind of absurdity that made the show so appealing in the first place. Now a reaper, it’s George’s job to collect the souls of the dying so that they can move onto a better place. She lingers around, keeping busy working a day job in a cubicle and spending her evenings with her fellow reapers.
Dead Like Me found its original charm with its blend of the weird with snarky wit. While the bizarre and often elaborate deaths that took place in the show were a hook, the lasting joy in the show came from the simpler moments where George and her colleagues would sit in a waffle house and drink coffee, reflecting on life and all of its complications.
Life After Death plays out as a reboot of sorts. Not much has changed around the ideals of the show. George and company have to reap, but the company’s changed. A gent named Rube used to hand out the assignments. He also provided the wisdom that came only from experience, even if it came with a sharp tongue. He was the perfect compliment to George’s cynicism that stemmed largely from her relative immaturity and developing world view. Sit them down together and provide a cup of coffee or a greasy breakfast and you end up with some fascinating conversations that have both humor and depth. But Rube’s gone.
His replacement is Cameron Kane (Henry Ian Cusiak), a playboy businessman who leads from a distance. It’s not only George and the gang who notice he’s no Rube. Cameron doesn’t have nearly the depth of the veteran leader and it was that depth that was a key ingredient to the show’s charm. Instead Cameron is largely a higher profile blend of reapers Mason (Callum Blue) and Daisy (Sarah Wynter, who replaces Laura Harris from the series). Mason and Daisy are much more shallow and self-centered. They make for solid supporting characters but a mix of the two doesn’t make for an interesting lead as Cameron is.
Life After Death does give George opportunities to grow, particularly in connecting with her distraught younger sister Reggie (Britt McKillip). Already a little strange, Reggie spent much of the series spiraling into stranger behaviors as she grieved. Even still, this isn’t enough to save the film. Life After Death aims to introduce the world of the show to a new audience while striving to remain true to the faithful that made the show big enough to justify bringing it back in DVD-film form. It unfortunately ends up disappointing on both fronts. For old fans, there’s little new and what is fresh replaces a lot of what made the show great in the first place. For new viewers Life After Death lacks intrigue and compelling storytelling.
It’s hard to let the things you love go. But often you know deep down it’s for the best. The story of Dead Like Me seems to have run its course. Life After Death is a disappointing continuation and maybe letting go will be for the best rather than let it continue at an inferior level.
Dead Like Me: Life After Death DVD Review
Dead Like Me: Life After Death hits DVD with an anamorphic widescreen picture and Dolby Digital 5.1 English audio. English is also the only subtitle option. Star Ellen Muth and director Stephen Herek provide a commentary track that isn’t very exciting. It blends the film with the series and more or less talks about the making of the film and the people involved. The only other bonus feature of any significance is the featurette “Back From the Dead: Resurrecting Dead Like Me,” which discusses how the film came to be as well as provide a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the movie.