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Reviewed by Will Harris
amily Guy” proved that a show’s success on DVD can result in the series being brought back to life, and “Futurama” demonstrated that the reincarnation of a TV series could actually bypass TV altogether by premiering straight to DVD. It would be only appropriate if “Dead Like Me: Life After Death” racked up enough sales to earn a new existence for George Lass and her fellow reapers, either in another adventure on home video or – dare we hope? – a brand new series, but the biggest concern here is whether or not the longtime “Dead Like Me” fans will be willing to accept the changes which have occurred since the show’s original run on Showtime.
First and foremost, Rube (Mandy Patinkin) is gone, having “gotten his lights,” as the phrase goes, and ascended to wherever it is that good reapers go. Upper management, perhaps? Well, whatever the case, he’s now out of the picture, and so, for that matter, is Der Waffle Haus, which burns down on the very same day that George (Ellen Muth), Mason (Callum Blue), Roxy (Jasmine Guy), and Daisy find out about Rube’s fate. Oh, and Daisy? She’s not played by Laura Harris anymore. Due to a scheduling conflict, she’s now played by Sarah Wynter, late of “24,” where – oddly enough – she played Laura Harris’s sister. And, hell, as long as we’re talking about all the changes, it’s worth noting that “Life after Death” was filmed in Quebec rather than British Columbia, so compared to the series, things tend to look a little… off.
Even with all of these changes, however, “Dead Like Me: Life after Death” is still an enjoyable trip back to the realm of the reapers. Writers Stephen Godchaux and John Masius both did quite a lot of work on the original series, and they brought that connection to the material to the script. Rube’s replacement, Cameron Kane – played by Henry Ian Cusick, otherwise known as Desmond Hume on “Lost” – comes in and turns everything you know about the rules of the reapers on their head. It’s a nice twist that leaves the gang wondering, “Is it possible that gruff ol’ Rube might’ve been overdoing it all this time?” If it’s perhaps a bit too convenient how quickly Mason, Roxy, and Daisy fall under Cameron’s spell, it’s at least no surprise that George would be the last one to buy into the suggestion that these changes won’t have some sort of ill effects.
For longtime fans, the most enjoyable repercussion from Cameron’s changes in the reaper methodology is that George ends up having a conversation with her sister, Reggie (Britt McKillip). It’s arguably a little dodgy that this goes down, since it was pretty well established within the original series that communication between the dead and the people from their former lives was verboten, but you can’t argue with the sentimentality of the results. Cynthia Stevenson also returns as George and Reggie’s mother, and we see how well she’s continued to move on in the years since George’s death.
It’s arguable that “Dead Like Me: Life after Death” will play better with those who haven’t had much experience with the show, given that the opening sets up the key events of the series and lets “Dead Like Me” virgins follow along with ease. The longtime fans, unfortunately, will likely find themselves so caught up in complaining about what isn’t here that they won’t readily be able to enjoy what is. Just keep this in mind: if you give “Life after Death” a chance, the odds are good that it won’t be the last time we see George and the gang – which is fortunate, since it plays far less like an ending than a new beginning.
Special Features: There’s a nice featurette, “Back from the Dead: Resurrecting ‘Dead Like Me,’” which talks about the origins and the filming of the movie, along with audio commentary from Ellen Muth and director Stephen Herek. One nagging question that’s left unanswered during both, however, is whether or not Mandy Patinkin was even approached about reprising his role. Also included, for no particular reason, is a trailer for “The Riches: Season 2” on DVD.