In this comedy/drama, Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence play two men who
are wrongly convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment at
Mississippi State Prison, known as Parchman Farm. Over the course of 60
years, they endure hardship and appreciate kindness, suffer cruelty and
learn forgiveness and, of course, fantasize. One of the best sequences
has them in a Harlem nightclub. Throughout their ordeal, they sharpen
their sassy, vulgar sense of humor as their friendship deepens, and they
never lose hope that one day, somehow, they will walk outside the prison
walls as free men. Apparently, the concept originated with Murphy, who
got screenwriters Robert Ramsey and Matthew Stone to develop the script.
Unfortunately, as often happens with Eddie Murphy movies, the writing
never lives up to his abilities as a talented, edgy actor/comedian.
Directed by Ted Demme ("Beautiful Girls"), Murphy and Lawrence do deliver
as an "Odd Couple." They worked together once before,
back in 1992, in "Boomerang." The weakness lies in the slick, tolerant,
country-club atmosphere of the penitentiary, complete with baseball,
booze, and babes - and the constant, complaining banter, which serves
to emphasize the episodic nature of the plot and the lack of character
development. Co-starring are Obba Babatunde (who serves as the story-teller),
Ned Beatty, Clarence Williams III, Miguel A. Nunez, Bokeem Woodbine, and
Nick Cassavetes (as the warden). And Rick Baker's "aging" makeup is
noteworthy. On the GrangerMovie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Life" is an unfocused,
superficial 6 but it does offer two solid, persuasive performances.
Copyright © 1999 Susan Granger