Rating -

Comedy (US); 1999; Rated R; 100 Minutes

Eddie Murphy:
Ray Gibson
Martin Lawrence: Claude Banks
Obba Babatunde: Willie Long
Ned Beatty: Dexter Wilkins
Bernie Mac: Jangle Leg

Produced by James D Brubaker, Brian Grazer, Karen Kehla and Eddie Murphy; Directed by Ted Demme; Screenwritten by Robert Ramsey and Matthew Stone

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Written by DAVID KEYES

There I was, sitting at Ted Demme's "Life" for 100 minutes, hoping to capture a shred of redeeming quality somewhere within the movie. The typical occasion to glance at my watch was inevitable, as was the urge to count all the pieces of popcorn on the floor; that way I at least had something to keep my mind occupied. Often did I hear a sudden outburst of laughter from audience members, and often did I turn my head to see what was so funny. Every time, though, the only funny thing happening was watching these moviegoers cackling at such incompetence.

There may be many theories on why "Life" is an absolute dead-zone, but the one I choose to believe involves the filmmakers gathering around a desk in a high-class office, with their cigarettes letting off poison smoke. They exchange looks, smirk, and then slowly fabricate a plan that will rob innocent moviegoers of money that they could have easily spent on seeing "The Matrix."

I can almost hear the conversation: "If we can take 'Forces Of Nature,' put Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence into it, forget to write a script and then hope that they can come up with something funny in the end, then we've got an instant hit on our hands. You watch" Those words undoubtedly sealed our doom, for the weeks leading up to the film's release, the studio promoted it so heavily that yes, it was an obvious conclusion that the film would debut at the #1 spot in the weekend box office. And it did. Even I saw it opening weekend.

So much for campaigning. Undeniably, the studio has managed to spend their time promoting a movie that is so boring, so awkward and so dire that it makes the foolish "Forces Of Nature" seem ambitious. It is a collection of unfunny scenes, sewed together with a paper-thin story, highlighted by dialogue that must have been written by someone with social problems. And even after that, the film never even manages to generate a simple chemistry between its stars, Martin Lawrence and Eddie Murphy. Lawrence remains stiff and undignitary, while Murphy is annoying and never shuts up, as if he were making "Beverly Hills Cop IV" behind bars.

The story is not much more than two guys and a series of coincidences that lead up to their misfortune. Framed for murder, they both wind up spending consecutive life terms in a Mississippi prison, where they not only learn to grow up, but learn to speak sentences containing more than three vocabulary words. Nearer to the beginning, Murphy's mouth goes off like a bazooka without ammunition; every time he opens that trap of his, he's either cussing, being insulting, or telling others off. By the time the movie begins to pass through time and the characters age, they both begin to grow out of their childish personalities. Onscreen, we see their lives progressively advance through about sixty years. Since the film is so long and dreary, it wouldn't have made much difference if the film had taken the whole sixty years to make.

Comedies like to put their stars into embarrassing situations, but "Life" doesn't even have those. Some of the incidents involving conflicts with other prison inmates are simply sidetracked with verbal anger, and never carried out to a point where laughter is even remotely possible. The movie is supposed to be about friendship, and yet it becomes so bored with the concept that nothing could have allowed Lawrence or Murphy to develop any kind of respectable relationship. Then, when the film realizes that it can no longer stick with the initial theme, it turns to numerous scenes involving the inmates attempting to escape the prison farm. By the end, everything gets all sentimental and mawkish, in which the characters discover that "jail isn't that funny in real life."

Now isn't that pathetic.

1999, David Keyes, Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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