It’s been over a decade since the late Ted Demme’s Life hit theaters and DVD and yet it still stands as one of Martin Lawrence and Eddie Murphy‘s best. Life is a foul-mouthed, no-hold-bars comedic look at the importance of life and how much the people we spend most of our time with actually matter. It’s both funny and dramatic, which is something both Murphy and Lawrence have been absent from in their recent performances. Life isn’t a timeless classic just yet, but it’s an important film for both men’s careers and it holds up very well on Blu-Ray.
Rayford Gibson (Eddie Murphy) and Claude Banks (Martin Lawrence) are wrongfully convicted of killing someone in cold murder and sentenced to life in prison. The time is the 1930s and both men are thrown into a Mississippi prison without as much as a fair trial. What makes matters worse is that both men have only recently met each other over another unfortunate sequence of events. The two spend their lives in the prison doing various activities like baseball, frequent attempts at escaping and eventually fighting and giving up hope.
Ted Demme’s Life couldn’t have had a better title, because that’s exactly what the film is about; life. It follows two young men as they grow old together behind bars and as they learn the true value of life. It’s rather foul-mouthed for a Murphy/Lawrence film, even though both men were once known to reign supreme in the R rated comedy world. If Life was made today by a studio like Universal, chances are it would have been watered down to fit the PG-13 mold, which would have robbed the film of almost all of its meaningful dialogue.
Ray and Claude have more than one conversation that results in one of them getting cursed out, but it’s the little moments like that where Life flourishes as a dramatic comedy. Murphy and Lawrence will have you laughing from start to finish, because of their constant bickering and verbal assaults, but the two show a genuine compassion for each other, which helps build the friendship and form the foundation of the movie.
Most of Life‘s success can be attributed to Murphy and Lawrence, but I still firmly believe that some of that credit deserves to go towards director Ted Demme, who had a natural talent for expressing very personal and emotional situations in his films. Demme’s career was ended abruptly because of an alleged cocaine overdose, which followed the release of his film Blow. Demme always brought the films he worked on to the next level, because he was always able to connect them to such basic, yet important things in life, like family and friends.
He does that in Life and he went on to continue that in Blow. He probably would have only expressed that even more in his future films, had he not tragically passed away.
Life will always be one of my favorite Eddie Murphy/Martin Lawrence films, because of their glue-like friendship that goes back and forth and because of how relatable and easy going they made their characters.
Universal brings the film to Blu-Ray with a 1080p video transfer that shows slight DNR enhancement, but mostly keeps things looking clean. The film was released in 1999, which means it shows slight signs of wear and tear, but mostly comes out on the other end untouched. Skin tones and fine textures aren’t incredibly detailed, but nothing is overly soft or damaged in any way. I’m betting this is the best Life is ever going to look, which isn’t a negative remark by any means.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track doesn’t hit as hard as the picture presentation, but that’s mostly because this is a comedy film and not an action film. Dialogue is mostly understood without problems through the front channels, while the back channels come into play whenever there’s a bit more action. There is occasionally a muffled patch of audio that only makes itself known whenever there’s a lot of characters on the screen interacting at once. It’s a good quality track, but the film doesn’t feel like something that needs a surround sound setup to be enjoyed appropriately.
Here’s a list of the special features found on the disc:
- Outtakes (SD)
- Spotlight on Location: The Making of Life (SD)
- Director’s Edits (SD)
- Rock Land/Interscope Soundtrack Presentation with K-Ci & Jo Jo and Maxwell Music Videos (SD)
- Feature Commentary with Director Ted Demme
Life comes to Blu-Ray with acceptable video and audio transfers that present the film in the best way possible. Any real complaints can be directed towards the film’s original transfer and the fact that something like Life won’t be getting restored any time soon.
The Blu-Ray is a good improvement from the DVD release, but it doesn’t shine when compared to other catalog titles that have previously been released. It’s a case-by-case basis and Life shouldn’t be held down too much in that regard, because there’s still a lot of noticeable improvement in both the video and audio departments. The special features are ported over from the DVD, so don’t worry about holding onto your original copy in fear that Universal would skimp on the extras.
Life might not be Ted Demme’s best film, but it sure is one of Eddie Murphy’s and Martin Lawrence’s. The two make the film memorable with their performances and director Ted Demme helps cradle their on-screen chemistry by surrounding them with real characters and life situations. It may not be the perfect movie, but I think this one is well worth the purchase.
Ted Demme's Life is both a funny adventure and a more serious look on life and the value of it. Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence provide the film with two performances that balance the comedy and drama well, making the film an important one for both of their careers.