[box cover]

My Life

The synopsis on the back of the DVD case does little to inspire hope: "Michael Keaton and Nicole Kidman star in this soaring family love story about a high-power executive, diagnosed with terminal cancer, who's forced to make plans for his unborn son. And so he begins filming a home movie, MY LIFE, in which he teaches his son all the things a man must know: how to slam dunk and, most of all, how to love." Holy cow. Now add to the pain by giving this DVD box a soft-focus cover photo that looks like a bus ad for a Lifetime Channel movie-of-the-week, and it would be easy to hate this disc before removing the shrinkwrap. Turns out that 1993's My Life isn't that bad — at least it's not the "Son of Love Story" its marketing team wants us to believe. However, it is a "weepie." It is sentimental and predictable. The more dignity-defying physical effects of terminal cancer are completely ignored. What saves My Life is that it knows full well that it's a sentimental three-hanky date-flick, so it's able to go about its business without crossing the dangerous line into being overly maudlin or manipulative. (Note: that's overly maudlin or manipulative.)

Unlike so many other Pottery Barn tearjerkers, My Life isn't "about" Bob Jones (Keaton) dying of cancer or the "courage and strength" exhibited by his wife Gail (Kidman). Instead, My Life tries hard to be about the importance of the examined life, of connections to one's past, of forgiveness and family and doing what needs to be done before the cheesy-special-effects light takes you away. It tries hard and mostly succeeds. Nicole Kidman is perfectly likable and always looks good through a soft-white filter. Michael Keaton is likewise fine and proves that he still does the best Michael Keaton impression in the business. The late Dr. Haing S. Ngor (The Killing Fields) is here as a traditional Chinese healer who knows what's good for Bob.

The obviously personal script is by first-time director Bruce Joel Rubin, who wrote Ghost, and only occasionally does it teeter into the kind of heartstring-yanking that sets eyes to rolling, the worst case of which occurs, predictably, at the film's very last moment, the "afterlife" moment (yes, Bob dies). Some scenes are genuinely effective and others ultimately provide little pay-off. Despite its formula and contrivances, My Life for the most part succeeds in what it set out to accomplish. The only real sin My Life makes is that it's ordinary. It's vanilla. And vanilla is a perfectly fine flavor — providing, of course, that it's what you're in the mood for at the moment.

*          *          *

Columbia TriStar's DVD offers both widescreen (1.85:1 anamorphic) and full-frame transfers, with audio in Dolby 2.0 Surround. Alternate languages are French and Spanish while subtitles are available in English, French, and Spanish. Also added are the theatrical trailer and talent files.

—Mark Bourne

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