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Overall Rating

Awesome: 3.45%
Worth A Look: 13.79%
Average: 31.03%
Pretty Bad37.93%
Total Crap: 13.79%

2 reviews, 17 user ratings

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Life or Something Like It
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by Andrew Howe

"Intelligence? Nothing like it."
2 stars

Samuel Johnson once said “When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully”. John Scott Shepard and Dana Stevens think so too, and they wrote Life or Something Like It to prove it. Unfortunately, they discard all the things they could have done with their intriguing premise to concentrate on a predictable tale of low-level redemption, and while the finished product is not without merit it’s difficult to erase the bitter taste of squandered opportunities.

Lanie Kerrigan (Angelina Jolie) is a narcissistic news anchor who gives the creators of blonde jokes a reason to live. Her life is “perfect” (her words, not mine) – glamorous occupation, famous boyfriend, and a hairstyle that she thinks makes her look like Marilyn Monroe – but when a job in the Big Apple beckons her boss forces her to team up with Pete (Ed Burns), a cameraman who makes it his mission to take her down a peg or two. Her dreams of fame and fortune take a nosedive when a street prophet with a perfect track record tells her she’s only got a week to live, and the bulk of the running time is devoted to chronicling her reaction to this cheery news.

There’s definitely a movie in that, but anyone expecting a serious rumination on mankind’s inherent mortality would be better served by the Bergman retrospective across the street. If you honestly believed the pale rider would be paying a visit in seven day’s time I expect your initial reaction would be to put your house in order – say goodbye to old friends, meditate on the passing of the seasons, and (with a nod to Pascal’s wager) get religion in a serious way. That’s the stuff of serious character studies, however, and since this is a mass-market release Lanie uses her death sentence as a liberating influence. She takes up smoking, ditches her dumb-ass boyfriend, gets drunk and searches for meaning in her life, which translates to being nice to her old man for a change and hanging out with Pete and his kid on visiting-rights day.

Which is not to say that watching Lanie awaken from a lifetime of self-absorption is without its charms. An interview that turns into a drunken singalong is simultaneously the best and worst scene in the film (check out the cops tapping their feet and try not to lose your lunch) and there’s some enjoyable interplay between the leads, while the uncertainty over the outcome keeps the tension running high. However, most of the narrative could have been lifted from any film about periods of transformation – Lanie’s impending demise is simply the impetus for the change, and the opportunity to take it to a deeper level is traded for a king-sized serving of fluff (the ending is particularly deplorable, and ranks as one of the most noxious examples of feel-good tripe I’ve experienced all year).

Despite being lumbered with a ludicrous Marilyn wig that makes it impossible to take her seriously, Jolie almost makes me forget how much I hated her in Tomb Raider. Her continuing refusal to adequately screen her offers means you never know what you’re going to get until it’s too late, but she’s perfectly capable of turning the right role into something to admire. By the halfway point her natural screen presence has transformed the boring and annoying Lanie into a vaguely endearing soul, to the extent that you’re actually willing her to succeed in her New York gig. Burns also comes through in fine form, building on the intense but likeable persona he brought to bear on Sidewalks of New York, while Stockard Channing and Tony Shalhoub provide capable support.

All of which only fans my agitation, because the building blocks for success were present and accounted for. Unfortunately Shepherd and Stevens were on hand to bring it tumbling down (it’s worth noting that Stevens scripted City of Angels, which was another interesting concept laid low by schmaltz and general ineptitude), leaving us with a mildly enjoyable but ultimately empty dose of light entertainment. See it if that’s your thing, but only if you’ve got plenty of time to waste.

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originally posted: 05/22/02 10:06:02
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User Comments

10/29/07 mb Better than expected. Nice movie. 4 stars
4/13/04 Phil M. Aficiando Nothing notable in this lightweight treatment of transformation; ridiculous 2 stars
1/06/04 Chris A sweet and enjoyable date flick. Nothing aw-inspiring but good. 4 stars
3/30/03 Is Angelina Jolie Australian? Lame to slightly amusing premise; lame to totally lame execution. 2 stars
2/08/03 Chiendog Pure shmaltz! Pass the vomit bucket! 1 stars
12/16/02 Laurian Diaconescu A nice movie. That's all it wants to be, so why try to demolish it? Cute one. I liked it. 4 stars
12/14/02 chris her hair looks like cotton candy. 1 stars
8/23/02 Danielle Ophelia Angelina, dammit...I named my CAR after you; please don't make me regret it! 2 stars
6/30/02 bigheadcmu wishy washy.....but she's hot as a blond 2 stars
6/27/02 Darlene Groetz Boy, did the cancer merchants get their venom into this one! 1 stars
6/26/02 Natalie Stonecipher Angelina Jolie should work harder at dispelling the rumor that she's really Ashley Judd. 3 stars
6/22/02 max zhang Angela should stick to kissing her brother on and off camera. 3 stars
6/09/02 The Chronic Mastubator Even when Jolie is playing "normal" she's still one creepy bitch! This is not good. At all. 2 stars
5/25/02 Suzz Entertaining enough if you are desperate. Jolie and Burns are good. 3 stars
4/30/02 Brenda I love any movie that has Angelina in it she is a wonderful actress/turns a bad movie good 5 stars
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  26-Apr-2002 (PG-13)



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