Review: ‘Dead Like Me: Life After Death’

More like one extra-long episode that clears up all the loose ends that a stand-alone feature film, fans will enjoy the closure while newcomers may feel closed off.

It’s been five years since George Lass (Ellen Muth) was killed by a flaming toilet seat (falling from a de-orbiting space station) and joined the ranks of the undead as a grim reaper. Tasked with popping out the souls of the soon-to-be-dead and pointing them in the direction of the afterlife, souls to be reaped are distributed by the head reaper on the block, Rube. When Rube disappears on the same day that his favorite restaurant suspiciously burns to the ground, a new boss named Cameron Kane (Henry Ian Cusick) summons George and her fellow reapers Mason (Callum Blue), Daisy (Sarah Wynter), and Roxy (Jasmine Guy) to a decidedly upscale venue. Oddly, Kane has no problem embellishing in his undeath rather than subsisting on the fringe of society; did Rube have it all wrong and reapers could be living it up without consequence?

After an incredible first season on Showtime and a less compelling second season, “Dead Like Me” left a lot unresolved about the reapers and George’s family issues when the series ended. With Mandy Patinkin’s character Rube absent and Daisy’s character played by another actress, the movie’s salvation quickly falls onto Ellen Muth’s shoulders, and she carries it well. While the device of having a boss reaper who immediately starts rocking the ship seems unlikely, it does lead to an interesting conclusion while providing a final opportunity for George to finally reconcile with her sister, Reggie (Britt McKillip, who has blossomed into fetching young actress). Everything works overall, but if you don’t already know what’s going on, much about this feature isn’t going to make any sense or carry any weight.

If there was one lesson “Dead Like Me” taught its audience early on is that no deed goes unpunished because everything is cause and effect. Having boss reaper Kane suddenly offering the world on a silver platter is a thinly-veiled device to change venues (ie no rebuilding of old sets) and to cut Patinkin’s character out. So while loose ends are being tied off, the film also aligns the story to continue on with the principle players should additional direct-to-DVD features follow. The story and direction quickly finds its comfort zone (including some bumped-up special effects), but where that zone is may be lost on anyone trying on “Dead Like Me” for the first time.

The ending makes much more sense than the elements that set it up, and as one other viewer has already mentioned, it was obvious from the beginning of the series who Rube was grooming to take his job, which makes Kane’s character arc all the more irrelevant in the cosmic reaping of things. The actress replacing Daisy just didn’t seem to have the same chemistry with Callum Blue’s Mason, so that arc falls flat as well. The infamous “Happy Time” crew is back and just as twisted as ever, but the focus stays where it has always been, on Ellen Muth’s George Lass. As long as future installments of this series keep that dynamic and move forward from this point, all should be well… well, until George’s last soul is reaped, which is the only required plot point this series must end on.

(a two-and-a-half skull recommendation out of four)

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