The 1934 film DEATH TAKES A HOLIDAY, this film's loose inspiration, is most fondly remembered by people who haven't actually seen it. It's a classic clunker in which Frederic March's painfully uncharismatic Death-made-flesh spends a long 79
minutes with a villa full of privileged flibbertigibbets. By comparison, three hours of Brad Pitt sparking with Claire Forlani fairly fly past, though for all its epic length the story is dead simple. Tired of being greeted with wailing and gnashing of teeth, Death appropriates the body of a
handsome youth (Pitt) and invites himself to stay with filthy-rich media mogul William Parrish (Anthony Hopkins), who happens to be a helluva nice, life-affirming guy. Death's house gift: As long as Parrish keeps him entertained, he'll let Parrish hang onto his mortal coil. Death adopts the
transparent moniker "Joe Black" and discovers the joys of peanut butter, sharp clothes and love with Parrish's gravely beautiful daughter (Susan), a fledgling doctor. Make no mistake: This is a USDA prime chick flick that rests -- sometimes more easily than others -- on Pitt's golden shoulders.
Death's first appearance, behind a pane of rippled glass in Parrish's study, is a stunner: Pitt's image is eerily distorted and genuinely mysterious. But he mostly stands around looking boyishly cute, which he does far better than anything else that's asked of him: The scenes in which Death trades
homespun metaphysical chitchat with a dying Caribbean woman (who sees straight through his toy-boy disguise) in a lilting Jamaican patois is positively painful. And not to get too nitpicky, but what's up with all the other folks whose final exits are back-burnered while Death samples the lifestyle
of the rich and famous? It doesn't pay to look too closely at this sumptuous fantasy, but if you're in the right mood to let it wash over you it's very warm and fizzy indeed.
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- Released: 1998
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: The 1934 film DEATH TAKES A HOLIDAY, this film's loose inspiration, is most fondly remembered by people who haven't actually seen it. It's a classic clunker in which Frederic March's painfully uncharismatic Death-made-flesh spends a long 79 minutes with a… (more)