This Eddie Murphy/Martin Lawrence prison buddy flick is an underrated tale of bad luck and persevering hope. While the film starts off awkwardly -- almost like Harlem Nights revisited -- the narrative takes off when the unkind hand of fate deals the duo a slew of cruel blows. With Murphy and Lawrence aboard (they also teamed up for Boomerang), one would expect a laugh riot, but Life is not a straight comedy: there are many sad and painful moments throughout the film. Both actors give surprisingly versatile performances: their love-hate buddy act has a chemistry reminscent of Murphy and Nick Nolte in 48 Hrs. or Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor. Director Ted Demme does a fairly superior job with the material, which embodies elements of Stir Crazy and even a few nods to Cool Hand Luke. Despite its lackluster box office and slighty-overextended scope, Life is above-average tragicomedy.
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Combining the considerable comic talents of Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence, Life is a successful attempt to bring comedy to a film genre not normally known for humor -- the prison movie. Universal's DVD is nothing short of outstanding, with excellent reproduction of the feature backed up with a host of special features. The anamorphic transfer is just about flawless, with depth, balance, and rich colors throughout. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is of similar quality, providing a perfect platform for the selection of R&B songs featured on the soundtrack. There is certainly no shortage of supplemental features on this disc, including standard fare such as cast and crew biographies, production notes, and the film's theatrical trailer. The "Spotlight On Location" featurette, subtitled "A Look Into Life, runs to around 20 minutes in length, and is composed mainly of interview footage with the cast and filmmakers. Ted Demme's director's commentary is not always as informative as it could have been, but it is constantly effusive and contains a few interesting anecdotes. Probably the most unusual feature on this DVD is the "Director's Edit" section, which illustrates how Demme would have edited key scenes had it not been for studio interference. Other features include two music videos ("Life" by K-Ci & Jo Jo and "Fortunate" by Maxwell), trailers for Mystery Men and For Love of the Game, CD-ROM material, and a riotously funny collection of outtakes. Overall Universal has produced a truly marvelous disc, which offers just about everything one could reasonably expect of a DVD release.
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