Most meetings last just a couple of seconds. A hello, a handshake, and
you have officially met someone. In the case of _Joe_Black_, the meeting
is stretched over three hours, and while it is an enjoyable and sometimes
touching entertainment, the same effect could have been achieved in half
That's exactly what director Mitchell Leisen did in 1934's
79-minute_Death_Takes_a_Holiday_, upon which Martin Brest's film is based.
Despite the presence of the Grim Reaper himself, _Joe_Black_ is a simple
and frothy fantasy that does not deserve such an epic length. Death, who
has arrived on earth to take an aging business tycoon (Anthony Hopkins) by
the name of Bill Parrish (Get it? _Parrish_?) into the great beyond,
decides to take a holiday in the land of the living in the body of a
recently deceased young man (Brad Pitt). Death gets more than he bargained
for when he falls in love with Bill's unhappy youngest daughter Susan
An drab corporate intrigue subplot contributes to the bloated running
time, as does the tediously drawn out finale, which strings together a
number of potential endings of diminishing effectiveness; had the film
ended fifteen minutes earlier, it would have been better for it.
Nonetheless, the length does not completely dilute the involving core of
the story, whose effectiveness can be credited to the ever-impressive
Hopkins and the luminous Forlani, whose heartfelt performance is as
stunning as her appearance. Not surprisingly, the weak link in the lead
trio of actors is Pitt, whose portrayal of Death comes off as a cleaned-up
version of his blank stoner character in _True_Romance_.