Life (2017)

When Eddie Murphy became a movie star in the early 80s, he vowed to make a film every fifteen years or so that examined the human condition in a comic yet profoundly truthful manner, each time using a prison as the primary location. (Like Foucault, Murphy finds prison to be an apt metaphor for the world and man’s place within it.) He also announced each film in this series would be called Life so that no one would mistake the larger philosophical intentions that would distinguish these works from his less ambitious projects such as the Beverly Hills Cop and Nutty Professor films.

Many people laughed at Murphy’s grand vision, doubting his commitment to the higher aims of cinema. You won’t hear those people laughing much these days.

In 1985, following the enormous success of Beverly Hills Cop, Murphy produced and starred in Life (1985), the story of Sammy, a streetsmart hustler who attempts the biggest score of his young career by robbing the bag man of a fading drug kingpin. The plan goes awry, and Murphy’s character (described as “Axel Foley before he went legit” by Murphy in interviews at the time) lands in prison with a life sentence. Sammy uses his quick wits and sharp elbows to thrive in the prison economy, eventually leading the other inmates in a full-fledged prison riot that ends tragically.

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Eddie Murphy as Sammy in Life (1985)

Just shy of fifteen years later, following the enormous success of The Nutty Professor, Murphy produced and starred in Life (1999). Life (1999) is a Prohibition-era tragicomedy about the lives of loudmouth Harlem grifter Ray (Eddie Murphy) and no-nonsense Claude (Martin Lawrence). Ray and Claude team up on a bootlegging mission to Mississippi that could bring them big bucks. But they run into trouble when a crooked lawman hits them with a phony murder charge. Faced with life sentences and shipped off to prison, they must think of a way to prove their innocence and avoid the brutal (yet wacky) guards while battling their biggest enemies of all — a pair of totally mismatched personalities.

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Eddie Murphy as Ray and Martin Lawrence as Claude in Life (1999)

Ever since Life (1999), all the haters and naysayers have loudly insisted Murphy would never make another movie called Life. And for a few years there I almost started to believe them. I should have trusted my gut. The funnyman/filmmaker is back at it again with Life (2017), which returns to the time-tested themes from the previous two movies by taking them into space.

Life (2017) is a sci-fi adventure movie starring fast talking astronaut Kimbo Kallison (Eddie Murphy). Murphy’s performance combines the swashbuckling swagger of Lando Calrisson and Indiana Jones with the quixotic ambitions of Brian Fitzcarraldo and Dr. David Bowman. Kallison embarks on a quest to smuggle space refugees through a heretofore unnavigable region of deep space. Betrayed by his crew, Kallison ends up arrested by Intergalactic Customs Patrol and sentenced to a lifetime internment in space jail.

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Eddie Murphy as Kimbo Kallison in Life (2017)

Space jail turns out to be a patch of deep space they chuck you into when all you have left is the space suit on your back. To prevent escapes, space jail is policed around its frontiers by nasty prison guard ships. Kallison must lead the other imprisoned spacemen to forage for food amongst asteroids and space debris. It’s a tale of the perseverance of the human spirit against all odds, just like Life (1999) and Life (1985) before it.

Murphy has now produced and starred in three Life films that could make a near perfect trilogy that will define his legacy as a funnyman/filmmaker. But at this point I wouldn’t bet against that sly fox coming back to Life in his early seventies to make a fourth movie called Life, just like we always dreamed.

TL;DR – With Life (2017), Eddie Murphy finally takes his laughs and philosophical longings into space and the result is a cinematic smash hit rich and varied in its content.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“I’ll be the first to say it: this is the best movie to come out since Life (1999).” – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

“It’s hard to believe the man behind Norbit has created such a thought-provoking and ultimately redemptive space movie.” – Verity Campbell-Barr, The Atlantic

Life is one the most realistic – and harrowing – space movies to come along in decades.” – Book Denison, Associated Press

“Eddie Murphy’s supporting role as an officious customs patrolman is even funnier than his leading role as Kimbo Kallison.” – Siyaka Camacho, New York Daily News

“We, too, are just collections of cells, and Murphy plays our nervous system like a flamenco guitar in concert with nauseous drums and vomiting trombones.” – Amy Nicholson, MTV

Life has cool effects, big laughs and a sweet twist. It ain’t rocket science, but it does what it does well — even, one might say, with a kind of genius.” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

“Here is a story that knows how to force nihilism and optimism into an uproarious death match in the vast nothingness of space. If you’re into that sort of thing.” – Legs Lavish, New York Observer

Life struck me as several cuts above ‘meh’ but never made me jump out of my seat.” – Glenn Kenny, RogerEbert.com

“Never reaches greatness, but it’s solidly good, from its earned laughs to a spot-on ending.” – Mercedes Saster, Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“A waste of talent and money, Life (2017) seems convinced that simply sticking Eddie Murphy in outer space with expensive special effects is enough to make a great space movie. But it truly does take more than that to make a great space movie.” – Goh Gwek Eng, TIME Magazine

Melonmeter® Score:

99% liquid & seed retention – watermelon_icon_pitr-1979px CERTIFIED JUICY

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