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  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
    English - Hearing Impaired

    Defending Your Life

    Warner Bros./Warner Home Video . R4 . COLOR . 107 mins . PG . PAL


    I first saw this film around 1992. It was on video and in the weekly section and I honestly couldn’t believe why I’d not seen it in the overnight section before. It has some great humour, a fairly warm approach to death, big name actors and a fairly lovable loser in the film’s protagonist, so why did it not do so well?

    Perhaps because of the subject matter. The majority of the film is set beyond life in a sort of waiting area. This is where we go when we die and while there (about five days) we must take stock of our lives and prove we have evolved beyond primitive fears and are ready to reincarnate a bit higher than human (whatever that may be).

    It sounds a little daunting, sure. If I were there I’m not so sure how I would go. However, writer/director Albert Brooks has tackled this subject matter in a strictly comedic sense, allaying any misgivings we might have about the Next Life. He gets all the good lines (naturally) and there are some very funny ones, though perhaps behind that is too much sadness and that’s why the film didn’t do as well as it could have.

    See, Daniel Miller is an average dude who’s divorced and never really found love. He’s spent the majority of his life living in fear of everyday things without having the courage to stand up for himself. It’s on his birthday as he’s reflecting upon his life that he crashes straight into a bus.

    Next thing you know, he wakes up dead and in Judgement City. After a huge night’s sleep (he’s been through a lot, remember) his counsel contacts him and soon they are in court defending his life. However, all isn’t so bad. In Judgement City you can eat whatever you like and it is the best you’ve ever tasted and you won’t gain weight. Plus, you can go visit the Past Lives Archives where you can see who you have been before (a deadpan cameo from Shirley Maclaine here). Plus, Daniel meets a girl and, in a matter of days, they are in love. However, she is virtuous and true and looks like she’ll be moving on, while Daniel’s record of fear looks like he’s going back to Earth to try again.

    While this does deal with some serious issues in a lighthearted manner, some of the trickier issues have been glossed over or completely ignored, which kind of lends a deliberate feeling to the film. However, it is, after all, a comedy so Brooks is probably right to leave out these more complicated topics in favour of jocularity.


    Overall this is a stable transfer. Given us in 1.85:1 with 16:9 enhancement, the picture quality is quite good, with little by way of artefacts or such. There are occasional scratches on the film stock, but they are rare and inoffensive. Flesh tones are fine and the colour palette is even, though shadow detail is more a mid-strength in that it gives, but also takes away. Blacks are true though, if that helps.


    This is a dialogue/visually driven film with not a lot of other noise being of importance, so Dolby Digital stereo has been employed here. Which is fine, because all the dry-as-dust Brooks comebacks sound just fine while Meryl Streep’s are her usual quality of performance. In fact, her character is delightfully cheery for the most part and is a good counterweight to Brooks’ nervous/George Costanza-type persona.

    The musical score is so pedestrian here I didn’t even bother to get the dude who wrote its name. There’s obviously no sound problem with it, other than it is a bit louder than the dialogue and this is a bit annoying, particularly when they two are back and forthing between scenes- i.e.; a visual sequence without dialogue but music followed by the reverse and then back again. Annoying. Plus the score is boring and while trying to be supportive, can’t match the screen presence of Streep or Brooks, and so shouldn’t have tried.


    These guys went straight back to Earth without a trial or anything. There's nothing left! (Though according to the case we get interactive menus and scene access. Gee thanks).


    This is a charming little comedy that tells an interesting version of the traditional life-after-death scenario, but don’t go digging deeper because there’s not a lot on offer in that regard. Brooks has averted our eyes, as it were, sparing us the not-so-nice thoughts about the afterlife, yet we can’t help but wonder about them – particularly with Brooks’ character being so brow-beaten for the most part.

    That being said, the film represents pretty good value considering the price tag and has been treated to a better than average transfer that balances any misgivings you might have. Worth a look for this price, most definitely.

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      And I quote...
    "An interesting and comedic take on life after death, but without a lot of depth beyond some snappy one-liners."
    - Jules Faber
      Review Equipment
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          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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