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Mike Aragona - Freelance Writer / Editor

At The Movies

At Life — A Comedy starring Eddie Murphy & Martin Lawrence. Running Time: Too long

I've been trying to categorize all the problems I had with this movie and can't really reach an end point. Here's the predicament: Eddie and Martin have great chemistry. Better, I feel, than Martin had with Will Smith in Bad Boys. Granted, it was a totally different movie with Will being the Label-Snob, Sexy Cop, and Martin being the Responsible, Family-Man Cop. In LIFE, Martin is a decent man trying to start a new life while Eddie is the smart-talking, charming (and very funny) Con-Man. They end up together on a job and through some mishaps end up facing a Life Sentence. Ok. The premise is funny. But here's where I have some problems:

They were framed for murder. Happens often enough, especially in movies, but there's usually a quick resolution, *especially* in comedies. Even in the last Drama that I've seen with this theme of framing (INNOCENT MAN starring Tom Selleck), he gets out after a few years. Not in this case. Here we have two rather decent folks, stuck in jail for a crime they didn't commit, for LIFE. That's not funny. That's hideous. And the other convicts? Well, they all seem to be killers. I say "seem to be" because when we're first introduced to them, the stories of why they're in jail come out in a type of one-up-manship which Eddie and Martin also take on (telling everyone they had been on a killing spree). So, you can't tell for sure. But, as much as I'm willing to believe in a couple of innocent men, it's difficult to believe in a CAMP full of innocent men. Thus, some of them had to be real killers or criminals. Ok, fine, I can handle that. So what's the problem? The problem comes from the fact that we are brought into this Camp and are made to feel for these criminals. They're Family Men (some with kids). They have their own social problems. Their own hopes and fears. They're all treated and presented as comrades, as friends, as "good guys". You get to LIKE the convicts, and HATE the guards. Again, it's a comedy, so it's not too off the wall. (Hey, didn't everyone root for the "cons" in HOGAN'S HEROES?). But, it's still a little much. We get to know these criminals and then begin to feel sorry for them as the movie moves along (we jump 40 years during the viewing time) and they begin to die out.

What's so funny about that? By the time the movie ended, I felt hollow. I went in hoping (because I never expect anything at movies) to laugh and instead leave feeling hollow? Hollow because I saw a movie (that's supposed to be a comedy) about how 2 men WASTED their lives behind bars? Because of prejudice and hatred? That didn't sit right with me. There's a scene near the end where Martin drives his "boss" to the bus station to pick up the new Superintendant. As he waits in the car, he looks around and sees the young people of that day (the movie, btw, starts with their arrest in the 1930s) and he doesn't recognize the world any more. He looks at his reflection in the window of a car and notices, truly notices that he's now an old man and life has passed him by. Where is this funny?

Ok, let's bring on the good points. There are some funny moments, that's for sure. Eddie and Martin make an excellent team, both using their best talents. Eddie with the big-smiling-wise-cracks-charm the skin off a snake. Martin with the wide-eyes-innocent smile, I know I can make you care for me face. Their interactions are great. How they deal and make friends with the other prisoners is great. I really wish I could see them in a movie together with a REAL happy ending. It all seemed so sad in retrospect. One thing I'm grateful for, though, is the out-takes during the credits. They made me laugh so hard that it almost (almost) made me forget the hollow pit in my stomache.

In summary, I would say that if you're a big Murphy and/or Lawrence fan, then you owe it to yourself to see them in LIFE. If you can, I'd suggest going on a "cheapie" night, though. As I mentioned, the feeling of emptiness at the end of the movie didn't sit right with me. It was similar to the feeling I had at the end of A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN when, after spending a whole movie watching these young, vibrant, women at an important time of their life, you get to see them again as old ladies. Although, to be fair, at least they lived better than the folks in LIFE because they DID have a life after the women's baseball league closed. The inmates in LIFE ended their life when the prison doors closed behind them.

So, until next time, get me some raisonnettes and some mountain dew, and I'll see you: At The Movies!!

(At The Movies (c) Mike Aragona. All rights reserved. No reproduction or retransmission of this article is granted without written permission of Mike Aragona)

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