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movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Life

Starring: Eddie Murphy, Martin Lawrence
Director: Ted Demme
Rated: R
RunTime: 109 Minutes
Release Date: April 1999
Genres: Comedy, Drama

*Also starring: Lisa Nicole Carson, Nick Cassavetes, Obba Babatunde

Review by MrBrown
2½ stars out of 4

"Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence are making the most out of _Life_." It's a fairly standard tagline, but it speaks more than perhaps its writer intended. Indeed, the well-matched pair make the most of what the makers of _Life_ give them, but what the material they are given isn't nearly as inspired as they are.

The combination of two comic firecrackers such as Murphy and Lawrence should add up to something explosively funny, and they do have their choice moments as New Yorkers Ray Gibson and Claude Banks, respectively, who are given a lifetime sentence in a Mississippi prison work camp for a murder they did not commit. It sounds rife with comic potential, but for some reason writers Robert Ramsey and Matthew Stone, along with director Ted Demme aren't content with _Life_ being a breezy comic lark. No, it also has to hold some dramatic weight as well.

Granted, life imprisonment, let alone _wrongful_ life imprisonment, is no walk in the park. But serious touches such as one inmate's self-sacrifice fail to register because there's no real emotional connection to the audience--to the story or the characters. Ray and Claude are likable enough, but the audience has no emotional investment in them; viewers just want to see do more of their comic sparring. The attempts at drama do add some weight, all right--as in weighing down and slowing the proceedings, not adding psychological or emotional heft.

That said, when given the chance to strut their comedic stuff, Murphy and Lawrence do not disappoint. Murphy does his tried-and-true smart aleck routine, but Lawrence goes against type somewhat by playing a complete square, and he comes off a bit too whiny at times. Nonetheless, the two have a natural ease with each other (as shown in their last film together, 1992's _Boomerang_), and a number of scenes strike sparks.

But there aren't enough of these sparks to make the film ignite. The preview audience with whom I saw the film seemed rather content with the film, and their feelings could very well be mirrored in multiplex auditoriums across the country this weekend. But for me, _Life_, given the raw comedic talent and energy at its disposal, simply doesn't have enough life to it.

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