Afterlife seems dull in whimsical comedy

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Thursday, November 1, 2007 4:59pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

The precious vibe of “Wristcutters: A Love Story” is indicated by its overly cutesy title, which indicates a possible cult movie heaving into view. And so it is.

This one’s a love story set in the afterlife, or at least the corner of the afterlife where suicides have gone. The place looks like one endless road movie — not such a bad afterlife, really, if you like that kind of thing.

Our hero is Zia (Patrick Fugit, the star of “Almost Famous”). In the film’s brilliant opening shot, we see Zia tidy up his messy apartment while listening to Tom Waits music, then quietly go into the bathroom and kill himself.

Zapped to limbo, he meets a Russian dude (Shea Whigham) who talks a lot of nonsense. He’s the movie’s Cheech to Zia’s Chong. They join a free-spirited woman named Mikal (Shannyn Sossamon), who claims she’s been taken to this afterlife by mistake, and that she didn’t actually kill herself. But where do you go to file a claim?

After quite a bit of wheel-spinning, the trio ends up at a kind of end-of-the-world campout-circus, presided over by a whimsical character played by none other than Tom Waits.

There are some funny moments along the way, like the bit about how garbage that falls on the floor of a car gets mysteriously sucked into a black hole, never to be found again. I’ve had cars like that.

If you buy into the concept, you’ll find the movie agreeable enough, in a black-comedy way. Director Goran Dukic definitely has some “touch,” and showcasing unusual types like Tom Waits and Will Arnett shows a willingness to try left-field choices.

But I didn’t really buy the concept. Aside from the question of whether Zia will find his old girlfriend or realize that Mikal is his soulmate (guess which way that will go), there isn’t much suspense in the afterlife. The characters are not in danger, because they’ve already died. What’s the worst that could happen to them?

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