Life (1999)

Comedy, Crime, Drama
Eddie Murphy, Martin Lawrence, Obba Babatundé, Nick Cassavetes
The story of two criminals (Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence) who discover the value of life after being sentenced to life imprisonment.
Entertaining if not over-the-top humor from a solid comic duo provides plenty of laughs.
  • Universal Pictures Company:
  • R Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 16 Apr 1999 Released:
  • 19 Oct 1999 DVD Release:
  • N/A Box office:
"Life" Is Good5/10


I cannot even begin to count how many `comedies' I have sat through that try to reach for the `timeless' formula by interjecting some lame dramatics to engage the audience even more than the comedy ever could. It's a practice as old as time in Hollywood. Most of these movies fail miserably.

You leave the theater thinking `It was funny enough, why couldn't it just stay silly?' My friends, I'm with you on every page. It's a slippery slope to juggle the two genres.

`Life' is the millionth attempt at warm-hearted comedy. It tries to make you pee your pants with its jokes, and yet slap your emotions around with the drama. And damn the odds, it fits like a glove. `Life' is also a film that defies much criticism. You either love stars Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence, or you don't. I'm in the first category. As the main characters, the two comedians prove just how valuable they are. Murphy is coming off a uniquely horrific year. `Dr. Dolittle' was a
smash, but a career setback to say the least. `Holy Man' was an unmitigated disaster, but one that didn't effect Murphy with any real damage. The greatest gift `Life' gives to Murphy is a chance to show off range. Murphy is a very talented actor, and this movie makes you wish he would try a
straight drama for once. Murphy can be devastatingly funny. But he can also be very dramatically convincing. With each new movie, Murphy grows as an actor. I really think he's set for brighter things. Martin Lawrence shares many of the same attributes as Murphy. He's terribly funny, and yet able to win your heart with a depth most comedians don't have. `Life' has Lawrence with the quieter role. He uses that chance to provide the film with a backbone. He eventually comes out the best rounded character in the fractured storytelling. It's a
good performance, but even better, it's a brilliant pairing with Eddie Murphy. The two are seamlessly funny. Squeezing every moment for comic and emotional juice. It's refreshing to watch a movie with two actors who seem to be trying something different, all the while living up to previous expectations. Ted Demme is a solid director, a thought that immediately puts me in the minority. His `Who's The Man?' was a strictly silly romp, but was actually funny. `The Ref' was the critically lauded and sharp black comedy. `Beautiful Girls' is a film that every time I sit down to watch, feels as comfortable as an old cardigan. He's yet to falter in my eyes. I like his attention to detail, and his gift for trusting his actors. `Life' wouldn't work as well as it does without a specific amount of direction and free will. Demme manages to keep the film on track without ever succumbing to an over-reliance on improv. The best scenes in `Life' are the quiet ones: the gay inmate who's release from prison provides a dilemma, the passage of time montage, and Lawrence's moment with the freshly baked pies(which is actually comical, but who's counting?). The film seems like it was longer at one point, but the film on display here really pleased me. I would recommend this film to anybody that has lost faith in Eddie Murphy.------------- 9

Life is a serious matter10/10

After reading the user comments on this movie, it appears that the main complaint is that it is not the rollicking laugh-a-minute comedy that fans of the two leads expected. Once you let that expectation go, this is a great movie! It succeeds as a drama with comic tone. There have been some great ones that do this, and we mistakenly classify them as comedies. For example, M*A*S*H, Mr. Roberts, It's a Wonderful Life. These are pictures that provide comic overtones to people struggling to get through a very serious and overwhelming event: war, contemplated suicide, and in the case of Life, life imprisonment.

I was surprised at how good Murphy is in this flick.Not one of my favorites, he convinces as he ages and grows under the burden his character carries, that of an entire life stolen from him. And he survives with a certain dignity. Lawrence is almost as good, but he does labor a bit with the dramatic parts, seeming a bit uncomfortable shedding his comic bent. Note that when these characters are shown as old men, Murphy actually becomes an old man, Lawrence is still a young man in oldster's make-up.


Let's not overlook an interesting small role expertly understated by Ned Beatty, and the charm of Bokeem Woodbine as Can't Get Right. Life is well-mounted and the sets are as convincing as any I've seen. Comedies are rarely as dirty and sweaty as this movie.

I thoroughly enjoyed this picture, realizing early on that it was a very serious movie wrongly hyped as a comedy.

Finally, an Eddie Murphy worth watching!10/10

I found this film funny and inventive. Two adjectives that I have not been able to use for an Eddie Murphy film for a long time.

With a story line as good as this one, it was up to Eddie to see how he could develop it. If this film had a flaw, I think this was it. I believe had Mr Murphy decided to look really deeply into the role of Rayford Gibson, it could have been a possible "Oscar" role for him.

There are no doubts regarding Eddie Murphy's acting ability, yet sometimes I
think he sacrifices the script and his role for a cheap laugh when it's not really necessary. It is possible that he is caught up in his own 'identity creation' of "Eddie Murphy: Comedy first, drama...maybe not!"

That said, Eddie Murphy and his worthy partner, Martin Lawrence successfully produce a comedy worth watching. I just hope that Eddie Murphy continues in this same vein. Please no more films like Beverly Hills Flop 3 and Holy Man!

Finally, a general point, which needs to be addressed, is that it is so strange how comedy films with far more substance, fail to do well financially. Moreover, there are films which fall short in quality, that can generate $100M+ for substandard, regurgitated, "comedy". "Life" which is struggling to reach the $65M mark falls into the former category. "Austin Powers: The Spy who Shagged Me" and "Big Daddy" definitely fall in the latter. The mind boggles!

Anyway, for those who have not seen "Life", go and see, you won't regret watching it.
One of Murphy's most underrated films7/10
Sure,Eddie Murphy has gotten credit over the years for being the comic genius that he is,but he does not always get proper credit for his movie work.1999's Life is a good example of Murphy getting overlooked.He does great work here,along with Martin Lawrence(whom I am not a huge fan of, but I must give him due credit here)as two men wrongly sentenced to life imprisonment.This is an excellent story,and casting Murphy and Lawrence in the lead roles is nothing short of a perfect idea.I never would have thought of them as a great team,but I was pleasantly surprised here.A must see for any die hard Eddie Murphy fan.
One of Eddie Murphy's best films.5/10

If you're not a fan of Eddie Murphy's humor, then skip this one.

The movie begins in modern times, 1997, with the main characters' funerals. The movie then flashes back to 1932 to begin telling their story, and continues as they age in prison in Mississippi.

They were "petty criminals" but were sentenced to life in prison for a murder they did not commit. However, being black in 1930s Mississippi did them no favors. The story that unfolds is irreverent and funny and has enough twists along the way to keep things very interesting.


I can't understand why the average rating of this movie is below "6". I give it "8" of "10" for its overall entertainment value, plus a few "life's little lessons" thrown in. I think it is one of Eddie Murphy's best movies.