Meet Joe Black

One of the paradoxes of big-budget studio filmmaking in the late '90s is that while the attention spans of moviegoers are at an all-time low, studio blockbusters are getting longer and longer. And while there's nothing wrong with a film taking its time to tell a story, for some reason studios seem to have decided that every blockbuster—even brain-damaged popcorn like Armageddon and Godzilla—needs to be over two hours long. Clocking in at almost three hours, Meet Joe Black is the latest Hollywood monolith to waste a substantial portion of its audience's lives in order to tell a simple, relatively straightforward story. What's shocking about Meet Joe Black is that it has no reason to be three hours long. It's not telling the entire story of the Bible. It's not weighted down with scores of battle scenes. It's the sort of light-hearted, disposable romantic fable that would benefit from a light, sophisticated touch. Unfortunately, director Martin Brest and his phalanx of writers—four are credited—execute the material with the leaden solemnity of a bad Ingmar Bergman knockoff. A remake of Death Takes A Holiday, Meet Joe Black stars Brad Pitt as Death, who, after thousands of years on the job, decides to take a holiday, eventually befriending an affluent businessman (Anthony Hopkins) and falling in love with Hopkins' beautiful daughter (Clair Forlani). Ostensibly conceived as a star vehicle to exploit Pitt's fabled prettiness for all it's worth, Meet Joe Black lives or dies on the strength of the actor's charisma. But Pitt is so sedate that he often seems on the verge of fading into the woodwork. It's probably not the year's worst film, but it would be difficult to imagine three more interminable, snooze-inducing hours of film than you'll find watching this narcoleptic dinosaur.

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