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HBO

MOVIE INFO

Created By:
Warwick Davis, Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant
Cast:
Warwick Davis, Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant, Rosamund Hanson, Steve Brody, Jo Enright, Shaun Williamson
Writing Credits:
Warwick Davis, Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant

Synopsis:
HBO presents a new comedy series from Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant and starring actor Warwick Davis, who portrays a conceited, self-aggrandizing version of himself. In Life’s Too Short, Davis’ character is an actor desperately trying to jumpstart his waning career and maintain his status as Britain’s go-to little person. He runs a talent agency for fellow showbiz little people called “Dwarves for Hire” (though he often takes the best roles for himself); is the vice chairman of a society for small people (he’d rather be chairman); and seeks advice from old pals Gervais and Merchant (also playing versions of themselves) in hopes that their A-list celebrity connections will aid his career. Shot faux-documentary style, the seven Season 1 episodes of Life’s Too Short include cameos by Liam Neeson, Johnny Depp, Sting, Steve Carell, Helena Bonham Carter, Cat Deeley, and others. A cross between Gervais’ Extras and Curb Your Enthusiasm, Life’s Too Short hilariously charts Davis’ every move as he tries to maintain his pride and self-respect in a series of uncomfortable, often-humiliating situations.

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1/16X9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Stereo 2.0
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish

Runtime: 205 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 1/15/13

Bonus:
• “The Making of Life’s Too Short” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes
• Outtakes
• 10 “Behind the Scenes” Featurettes


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Life's Too Short: The Complete First Season (2011)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 8, 2013)

For his first live-action TV series since the much-loved Extras went off the air in 2007, Ricky Gervais returned with 2011’s Life’s Too Short. While Gervais himself played the lead in Extras and The Office, here he takes a supporting role and lets the show concentrate on actor Warwick Davis.

This “documentary” lets us see life through the eyes of a diminutive performer/talent agent – with the usual warped Gervais twist. This DVD set gives us all seven of Season One’s episodes. The plot synopses come straight from the DVD menus.

Episode 1: “Warwick interviews a new assistant and drops by unannounced to see old pals Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, but Liam Neeson already has an appointment to pitch himself as a serious actor who is serious about breaking into comedy.”

While E1 doesn’t allow Too Short to leap off the screen ala Extras, it provides a more than competent launch for the series. I don’t know how much it’ll captivate us with Davis as a lead, though, as he’s not the strongest link here.

Without question, the sequence with Neeson offers the best few minutes – and makes us wish that the series would concentrate on Gervais/Merchant instead of Davis. Still, the rest of the show offers entertainment, so I’m hopeful it’ll develop well.

Episode 2: “After shilling himself at a sci-fi convention, Warwick agrees to be the special guest at a Star Wars-themed wedding. His fortunes appear to rise when Johnny Depp hires him to help research a new movie role, but Johnny ends up having a bone to pick with Ricky.”

Once again, the series only really comes to life when it includes Gervais and Merchant. The Depp/Davis sequences don’t work; Depp plays himself in Hunter Thompson mode, and his interactions with Davis become dopey. However, when Depp meets with Gervais – and roasts him in response to the way Gervais trashed The Tourist at the Golden Globes – the show sparkles. As with E1, the non-Gervais moments are usually decent, but they’re not the best elements.

Episode 3: “After complaints that he takes all the best roles for himself, Warwick creates the show reels for his talent-agency clients and launches a website to strum up business. Meanwhile, Warwick sidles himself into a news interview with the chairman of the Society of People of Short Stature, and takes on a role opposite Helena Bonham Carter.”

While Davis may play an exaggerated version of himself, he speaks with the voice of Gervais. It’s shockingly easy to imagine Gervais uttering Davis’s lines – well, without all the dwarf jokes included, of course.

Which creates a hole in the center of the series. Davis is a more than competent comedic actor – he’s better than expected, really – but he’s no Gervais, and the fact that so much of the material sounds like “Gervais Speak” means that we end up distracted. Even Carter’s willingness to lampoon herself Extras-style fails to deliver the goods.

Episode 4: “Warwick’s attempt to make a big impression on a real estate agent backfires. In the midst of messy divorce negotiations, which are not helped by being represented by his accountant, Warwick asks Ricky and Stephen for personal advice during an awkward video chat with Steve Carell. Meanwhile, Warwick seeks election as the chairman of the Society of People of Short Stature.”

Am I the only one who’d like the series more if it focused less on short jokes? Yeah, I know that this is part of the concept, as it’s essentially a dwarf making fun of himself, but it still gets tiresome after a while; too many of the gags feel like they’re laughing at little people and not with them. I think the program would be more compelling if it just stayed with humor about an egotistical actor, not with humor about an egotistical pint-sized actor. While that would be less novel, it’d also be less gratuitous.

Episode 5: “Warwick looks for guidance from his spiritual advisor/life coach Bryan, and while exploring different faiths meets with a Catholic priest and a Scientologist. Following a visit to a dating agency (where he met his ex-wife), Warwick embarks on a quest to find a new partner.”

Though it still indulges in some dwarf-mockery, E5 shows a better than usual balance. It actually allows Warwick to stand up for himself and his people in a way that’s borderline touching, a rarity in this generally snarky/cynical series. I still don’t think it’s the funniest of shows, but at least it’s more appealing.

Episode 6: “Warwick invites his celebrity connections to a housewarming party in his new apartment in hopes of impressing a potential girlfriend named Amy, as well as his ex-wife. When only a few of the celebs accept, Warwick ends up hiring model/TV personality Cat Deeley to attend.”

The introduction of Amy has offered a change in the series’ tone, as it’s gone from making Warwick a standard buffoon to turning him into a more tragic figure. Sure, his wounds are all self-inflicted, but he still comes across as sad, so we slowly develop affection for him. Add to that less of a focus on cheap short jokes and matters are looking up here.

Episode 7: “In the season finale, Warwick attends a charity event in the hope of hanging out with celebrities. However, in trying to impress the rock icon Sting, Warwick ends up spending more than he can afford. Meanwhile, Warwick seeks to settle his divorce proceedings and make amends with Amy.”

E7 ends the season on a somewhat flat note. It violates one prime Gervais rule: it involves a celebrity but doesn’t allow the celebrity to make fun of him/herself. Granted, I guess you could call Sting’s appearance here slightly self-mocking in that he comes across as a do-gooder prat, but he doesn’t get laughs.

Well, at least E7 continues the trend of shows without a heavy focus on easy short jokes, and it develops the series’ general narrative. As usual, the only real comedy emerges from Gervais/Merchant, so don’t expect much comedy elsewhere. Overall, this becomes a lackluster finale.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B-/ Audio C+/ Bonus C

Life’s Too Short appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. The shows usually looked fine but had some ups and downs.

Overall sharpness seemed positive. Wider shots tended to be a little iffy, but the shows usually demonstrated pretty good definition. Jagged edges and moiré effects presented moderate concerns, though, as they crept into a lot of shots. I noticed no edge haloes or source flaws.

The series opted for a palette with a mild amber tone and managed to demonstrate reasonably vivid colors. They didn’t show great pizzazz, but they offered hues that worked fine. Blacks were dark and dense, while shadows demonstrated fair clarity. Despite the issues with jaggies and shimmering, this was a generally good SD image.

A faux documentary like this doesn’t need a dazzling soundscape, so the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio of Short remained low-key. This meant that not much of note came from the side and rear speakers. Party/street scenes opened things up in an acceptable manner, and I noticed good panning/movement for elements like vehicles. Nonetheless, this was a chatty show without much from the sonic landscape.

Audio quality seemed fine. Dialogue could be somewhat loose because the lines were recorded in a loose “documentary style”; there’s more reverb to the speech than usual. Nonetheless, dialogue remained intelligible. Music was peppy and full, and effects were adequate; also recorded with an “on the fly” feel, they lacked much depth, but they worked for the settings. The shows offered average sound.

When we shift to extras, we open with The Making of Life’s Too Short. It goes for 27 minutes, 48 seconds and includes comments from actor/writer Warwick Davis, writers/actors/directors Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, and actors Liam Neeson, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Sting, Cat Deeley, and Kiruna Stamell. The show looks at the series’ characters and narrative arc, cast and performances, and the show’s tone/themes.

Don’t expect a ton from this fluffy piece. Program clips dominate and we don’t learn much along the way, as most of the comments relate how much fun everything is. It’s not a terrible featurette, but it lacks much meat.

Three Deleted Scenes fill a total of 10 minutes, 23 seconds. The first gives us more of the meeting with Liam Neeson, while the second shows additional encounters at the sci-fi convention. Finally, we watch as Davis asks Gervais and Merchant for an endorsement. All three are quite good and clearly got cut for time, not because they weren’t worthwhile.

We also find four minutes, 32 seconds of Outtakes. These provide the usual goofs and giggles, with most of the laughter from Gervais, who apparently can’t help himself. It’s a forgettable collection.

Under Behind the Scenes, we find 10 brief featurettes. These go for a total of 27 minutes, 37 seconds and provide material from Davis, Gervais, Stamell, Sting, Merchant, Deeley, and actors Rosamund Hanson, Nick Mohammed, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Steve Brody, Ewen MacIntosh, Keith Chegwin, Shaun Williamson, and Right Said Fred. The clips focus on cast and performances as well as aspects of specific shows. Some fun material appears, but they tend to remain in the puffy vibe scene during the “Making of” show, so they’re not especially informative.

After two highly-regarded series, Ricky Gervais returns with Life’s Too Short and doesn’t reach the levels of his earlier work. The show remains enjoyable and occasionally inspired, but it’s rarely better than just “pretty good”. The DVD provides fairly average picture, audio and supplements. I’m somewhat lukewarm toward Short but like it enough to recommend it to Gervais fans.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main