Saturday, March 21, 2009

Defending Your Life (1991)

Directed by Albert Brooks. What happens after you die? A lot of funny stuff. What if before you got to heaven you were forced through a crazy bureaucracy that made you prove the value of your time on earth?

This is one of my favorite movies not just because it is good but because I have a deep affection for Albert Brooks and this seems to be the moment that things came together for him with mainstream Hollywood. Relatively speaking, this looks big budget but that doesn't really matter when you consider just how many great ideas there here. This is just very imaginative stuff. Like, remember how "the Flintstones" tried to get laughs by creating some pun-filled prehistoric equivalent of every aspect of modern society? Brooks' afterlife does the same thing with death and eternity. It's much, much funnier. This afterlife is also where Rip Torn reinvented himself for this most recent phase of his career.

I think this movie has aged well, but it certainly has aged when you consider that comedies these days have to be really outrageous to exhibit any sort of edge. I like Judd Apatow and his cafeteria cool table of filmmaking friends, but the real magic of "Defending Your Life" is how straight-faced and sweet it is without ever going too far and feeling wussy or pedestrian.

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