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Meet Joe Black

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Meet Joe Black

Starring: Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins
Director: Martin Brest
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 180 Minutes
Release Date: November 1998
Genres: Drama, Romance, Sci-Fi/Fantasy

*Also starring: Claire Forlani, Jake Weber, Marcia Gay Harden, Jeffrey Tambor

Review by Walter Frith
1 star out of 4

Meet Joe Black, and then say good-bye to him. Like an oddity you would meet at a friend's party, Joe Black is the sort of guy that reminds you of the person who sits in the corner for the duration of the party and says nothing not because he's shy but because he just isn't interesting. Ditto for this character study? Notice the question mark. 180 minutes of mumbling, meandering and dull facial expressions are inexcusable from a director, Maritn Brest, who has been responsible for film gems such as 'Going in Style', 'Beverly Hills Cop' and 'Scent of a Woman'. Talented in every sense of the word, Brest makes his films technically flat and academically exciting as his characters always stand out and Brest's sub text isn't always challenging but his films are usually captivating and always entertaining. What's more shocking is how a pair of actors like Anthony Hopkins and Brad Pitt can read a script and not use the chef's line...."It needs more flavouring!" In the dictionary under "bland", you will see a description of this movie. The most disappointing thing about this movie is that its last half hour is great and I don't understand why the same technique wasn't applied to the rest of the film.

Anthony Hopkins is a media mogul whose decency as a person shines through at every turn. He loves his family, misses his late wife, has not re-married for the sake of his enormous wealth and resists the idea of making a deal with a rival to merge with his company and under mind his life's work. Hopkins wakes up one morning and hears a strange voice that keeps saying "Yes." The key to the film's story is his daughter (Claire Forlani), a medical intern who meets an un-named man (Brad Pitt) in a coffee shop one day. She's pretty much an item with her father's right hand man in business but finds that it's more of a business arrangement and her father can sense this. After striking up a conversation with Pitt at the coffee shop, the two of them obviously feel struck by the love thunderbolt. They part strangely outside and as she goes one way and turns the corner, he goes the other and watches her fade from sight while standing in the middle of the street and is hit by a car.

Hopkins experiences chest pains at the office and convulses and hears the strange voice again and later that night before dinner, he hears it again and is visited by what we learn is death (yes, the grim reaper) who has assumed Pitt's body and wants a lesson in life before taking Hopkins to the next world and the two of them know that their time left on Earth is short. Hopkins is able to reflect on his life and Forlani thinks that the body she sees is the man from the coffee shop and the film explains things clearly later, although there is no reason for this film to be three hours in length.

When I think of films such as 'The Godfather', 'Citizen Kane' and other movie classics that can tell a story in less time than this film, I'm appalled. 'Meet Joe Black' has brief musical interludes here and there, too many close-ups and much of the dialogue is barely audible giving the impression that it could pass as a silent film if subtitles were added which would probably get the words across more clearly than the underachieving vocal chords of the cast.

Based loosely on the 1934 classic 'Death Takes a Holiday', 'Meet Joe Black' is written by Ron Osborn, Jeff Reno, Kevin Wade and the brilliant Bo Goldman who is way off the mark by allowing his name, along with director Martin Brest to be attached to this film.

'Meet Joe Black' is not a bad movie. It is, however, a very under achieving and disappointing one. It has no punch to move an emotional nerve in the body of a movie fan and while a film like '2001: A Space Odyssey' can be hypnotic and mistaken as boring, 'Meet Joe Black' doesn't even have the technical supplements to warrant being what it is, flat and unappealing.

Copyright 2000 Walter Frith

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