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Laramie Movie Scope:
Meet Joe Black

Have we gotten to the ending yet, mom?

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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November 29, 1998 -- "Meet Joe Black" is a movie that just never seems to go anywhere and it never seems to end and all of its characters seem to be asleep. This story is not lively and it is not fast-paced. Some plants grow faster than this story develops.

The story is a modern retelling of the old "Death Takes a Holiday" film made in 1934, but it is about three times as long as that one was. Death, in the person of megastar Brad Pitt, decides to take human form to see what it is like on the other side of the veil. He persuades multimillionaire William Parrish (Anthony Hopkins) to show him around in return for a few extra days of life.

Parrish doesn't want to be bothered with being a tour guide, so death takes up with his pretty young daughter, Susan (Claire Forlani of "The Rock," "Basquiat" and "Mallrats"). Parrish doesn't like that, either (he doesn't seem to like much of anything. You would think Death would have picked someone more upbeat for a guide).

Parrish and Death have harsh words. You would think that Death would always have the last word, but not this time. Pitt gives a very low-key performance as Death, a guy who knows the IRS code by heart, knows how to speak with a Jamaican accent, but knows nothing about peanut butter.

There are some fine actors in the film in addition to Pitt, Hopkins and Forlani, there's a sparkling performance by Marcia Gay Harden, who plays Allison, Parrish's older daughter who lost the sibling rivalry war (she appeared in "Flubber, "Desperate measures") to her sister Susan. The relationship between Allison and her father is about the only believable one in the film. Harden brings a little energy to her role, and that's about the only energy in the film.

Jeffrey Tambor plays Allison's lovable looser husband, Quince. The actors try hard, but they just can't pump enough life into this over bloated, somnambulant movie to keep it moving ahead. As Woody Allen said in "Annie Hall," "What I think we've got here is a dead shark." This film rates a C-.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 1998 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)