“We need to go back to a time where it all started. When God was getting busy with the creation of the universe, where there was only cosmic goo, God’s play-doh, if you will. While God was messing with this play-doh, creating all living things, he put death into a ceramic jar for safe keeping, until he could figure out what to do with it. One day God gave the jar to a frog and a toad to guard it from harm, while he went off to create something more fantastic. Why he gave it to a frog and a toad I’ll never know, but one thing led to another and the jar shattered, letting death out; and ever since, everything has to die. So, there you have it, the mystery of death finally revealed.”
What a fitting way to open up an unexpected new chapter in the story of Dead Like Me, the direct to video film that attempts to resurrect from it’s own death the cult favorite Showtime original series.
Most of the actors and characters from the series have returned. Of course, it wouldn’t really be a Dead Like Me film if Ellen Muth weren’t back playing George Lass. Also returning you’ll find Callum Blue back as Mason, Jasmine Guy as Roxy, Christine Willes as Delores, and even Britt McKillip as George’s sister Reggie. The character of Daisy has also returned, but not Aura Harris. Instead the character has been taken over by Sarah Wynter. The most important change, of course, is that head reaper Rube, played by Mandy Patinkin does not return. He is replaced by the lovable Desmond from Lost, Henry Ian Cusick, as the new head reaper, Cameron. Cameron is bringing the crew into the 21st Century. Gone are the familiar Post-Its. Now the reapers get their instructions over a blackberry type of device.
Fans of the series know that George was an 18 year old who was killed by a toilet seat that came crashing to Earth from an orbiting space station. Dead, she was given the job of a reaper. She would exist in another body and collect the souls of the dying while helping them to find their “lights”. The task is to collect the soul right before death. They get only the name, place, and time for each assignment. It is up to the reapers to figure out who the person is and how they will die.
In this long anticipated film, the reapers are dealing with their new boss, who isn’t as effective as Rube was. He’s messing up, and it’s making all of their jobs harder. Each of them also experiments with what would happen if they didn’t follow the rules. Roxy forces a man to live, George reveals herself to her sister, Mason robs a liquor store, and Daisy takes shortcuts that lead to big problems. The film feels a lot like an extended episode, which can be good or bad depending on your expectations. If you’re looking for the movie to revitalize the series, it doesn’t appear likely. The studio sat on the film for nearly two years before finally releasing it. It does appear awkward at times, and I’m not sure even the cast bought into this attempt to continue the series. All of the elements are there: The gravelings, the reaping, and the chemistry between the cast, but without Pantinkin there is no heart that bundles it all together. The film does end in a way that suggests a possible return of the Rube character. Who knows. “Death is full of surprises.”