Acclaimed actor/writer/director Mel Brooks (Spaceballs, The Producers) takes his hilarious brand of comic lunacy to the streets-literally-with this "warmhearted comedy" (Roger Ebert) about a rich man who wins back his humanity...by losing everything else he's got!
Multi-billionaire Goddard Bold (Brooks) has just made a deal that will change his life. In order to win the right to build over a ghetto, Bolt must survive on its impoverished streets-penniless-for 30 days. but when this well-to-do man discovers what its like to do without, it'll take the charity of a feisty bag lady (Leslie Ann Warren) and a newly found appreciation for the best things in life to show him the true meaning of being "filthy rich"!
When you hear or see the name 'Mel Brooks', your mind usually tells you to laugh and think of his spoof comedy work, including 'Blazing Saddles', 'Spaceballs', 'Young Frankenstein', and 'Robin Hood: Men In Tights'. There are many other films that fall into this spoof category that Brooks has made, but back in 1991, Mel wrote, produced, and directed a dramatic movie with comedy elements. It was more of an experimental film for him, as he wanted to explore other genres and make a satire of the class system in America.
This movie was called 'Life Stinks', and unfortunately it was met with unfavorable reviews and even worse box office receipts. Don't get me wrong, there are a few slapstick moments, but they don't come often, and it's a sidestep from the director's usual line of work. In short though, 'Life Stinks' just doesn't work all that well. The usual funny dialogue Mel writes for his parody films just doesn't fit into this movie, and the way the script is written to make jokes about homeless people and their families, simply doesn't work. A good example of how to shed light on these subjects was the film 'Trading Places'.
It seems like Mel wanted to make the same movie, but was incapable of producing something of that valor that perfectly mixes comedy and drama, while shedding light on the lower class and homeless people of America. Mel stars as Goddard Bolt, a billionaire businessman who is planning on tearing down all the slums in Los Angeles, only to build high end condos and shops. The catch is that he only owns half of the land. The other half belongs to a man named Vance (Jeffrey Tambor), who doesn't want to sell.
Hell-bent on his plan, Bolt makes a bet with Vance that if he can survive for 30 days in the slums on his own without leaving, Vance will sell him his half of the land for super cheap. The bet is on, and Bolt heads to the slums under three rules, including, he has to be penniless, he cannot leave the slums, and he can't tell anyone who he really is. Throughout this 30 days, Bolt learns all the life lessons he never knew, mostly being that being rich and having material things isn't what life is all about. Meanwhile, Vance has a sinister scheme in play that will destroy Bolt.
'Life Stinks' could have been a better film if was written and executed in a different way. The slapstick comedy and the atempt to bring laughs to issues such as homelessness, just doesn't work with this movie. The dialogue is painfully bad, and the characters are cliches of themselves. That all being said, you have to give Mel Brooks some points for stepping outside his realm to make something different than his usual shtick.
'Life Stinks' comes with a 1080p HD transfer presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio. This doesn't look like a brand new transfer though, but rather looks like a cleaned up version of the DVD, which presents a few problems. The main overall issue with this picture is that it never looks crisp. Instead, it looks a bit soft and vague throughout. Detail isn't particularly sharp either, although certain closeups in well-lit areas provide some good facial features and textures in costumes, but it only lasts for a split second.
Colors never seem to pop off screen either and look more muted that bold. There is an uneven layer of grain too, which fluctuates in intensity throughout the movie. There is still some dirt and debris on the print as well, along with some video noise. Black levels are mostly deep and inky, but there is some evidence of crush, and the skin tones look natural for the most part, leaving this video presentation with less than stellar marks.
This release comes with a DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo mix. There is nothing really to write home about her in terms of big explosions, gunshots, or action pieces, but for what the movie is, it gets the job done. The score is lively and well balanced throughout, while never drowning out any of the other sound aspects. Dialogue is clear and easy to follow, and his a bit of directionality to it. The sound effects and ambient noises are realistic and provide a somewhat immersive setting inside the slums of the city. There were no pops, cracks, hiss, or high shrills to speak of either. For being a small dramatic comedy with mostly only dialogue coming through the speakers, this is a better than average audio presentation.
Audio Commentary - Mel Brooks and co-writers Rudy De Luca and Steve Haberman discuss making the film. They discuss how it's a departure from Mel's parody films, the satire of the upperclass, and some fun anecdotes on set. They also talk about the cast and filming on location. I wouldn't say this is a funny commentary, but it is very insightful and informative.
Does Life Really Stink? (SD, 15 Mins.) - This bonus feature is more than a decade old and has cast and crew interviews about the tone of the film as well as how Mel came up with the story.
Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2 Mins.) - Trailer for the film.
'Life Stinks' isn't your typical Mel Brooks of film. It doesn't have musical numbers with manly men singing about their tights, nor does it have a black sheriff in the old west. This movie is more of a dramatic satire with comedic moments that tries to shed the light on the class system and homelessness. All of the jokes and dialogue fall flat unfortunately, and it never gains the steam of wit of similar film such as 'Trading Places'. The video presentation is lacking, but the audio presentation seems to be fit for a movie of this stature. The extras are more than a decade old, but it was nice to hear Mel Brooks talk about this movie again. Rent this release, before purchasing.