Bil’s rating (out of 5): B.
USA, 1998. Universal Pictures, City Light Films. Screenplay by Ron Osborn, Jeff Reno, Kevin Wade, Bo Goldman, inspired by the screenplay by Maxwell Anderson, Gladys Lehman, adapted by Walter Ferris from the play Death Takes A Holiday by Alberto Casella. Cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki. Produced by Martin Brest. Music by Thomas Newman. Production Design by Dante Ferretti. Costume Design by Aude Bronson-Howard, David C. Robinson. Film Editing by Joe Hutshing, Michael Tronick.
Anthony Hopkins stars as a rich man who is about to have a visit from everyone’s favourite party animal, Death. Unfortunately, Death is in the mood to experience a little bit of Life, and so takes the body of an accident victim (Brad Pitt) and insinuates himself into the life of Hopkins’ manor and his many confused family members. Pitt is delightfully droll in the role, fully fleshing out his character’s surprise at the many experiences he happens upon on his vacation from work, such as tasting peanut butter, romancing the rich man’s daughter (Claire Forlani), and helping Hopkins avoid the financial disaster being brought upon him by his prospective son-in-law (Jake Weber). You can see that somewhere in the film’s disastrous running time of three hours that an okay film is safely hidden, but director Martin Brest thinks he is a way more important director than he really is, letting each scene run on much longer than they should. It’s not like he’s adapting a Greek myth or a page from the Bible and fleshing it out to a full feature experience, he’s just taking a silly old 80-minute movie (1934’s Death Takes A Holiday to be precise) and telling it in 180 minutes. Marcia Gay Harden contributes the best performance as Forlani’s sister.