Meet Joe Black (1998)

Genres - Fantasy  |   Sub-Genres - Romantic Fantasy, Heaven-Can-Wait Fantasies  |   Release Date - Nov 13, 1998 (USA)  |   Run Time - 179 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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Review by Michael Costello

Martin Brest's handsome remake of the 1934 film Death Takes a Holiday is rather ponderous, overlong, and somewhat thrown off-key by the casting of the genial Brad Pitt in the admittedly unplayable role of the Grim Reaper. It's nearly impossible to fathom what the point of this ornate fantasy might be, as it attempts to muffle the emotional and physical pain of death in the trappings of wealth. While Pitt is miscast, and is clearly in over his head with the epigrammatic dialogue, his performance is not without the charm that he's shown in previous work. As the virtuous and beloved multimillionaire about to meet his demise, Anthony Hopkins does a splendid job with a thankless role, making one almost believe that there might be some substance behind this weightless premise. Jeffrey Tambor and Marcia Gay Harden are also excellent, as Hopkins' semi-competent son-in-law and his less-favored daughter, greatly benefitting from being the only believable characters in the film. Claire Forlani, as the mogul's daughter, has little to do other than look pretty. And since looking pretty is a great deal of what this film is about, it's worth noting that the domains of the super-rich are beautifully photographed by Emmanuel Luzbecki. While the film fared badly at the box office, adding to Pitt's string of commercial failures, it apparently did little to tarnish his career.