Known Johnson

February 7, 2006

Bait and switch

Filed under: Movies — Tom @ 9:07 am

A few weeks back, after reading Chris’ piece on Defending Your Life and his need to own this, I realized that I too needed to own this. Afterall, I rank this as one of my all-time favorite movies, one of those great things that you can watch over and over, and that’s what I used to do when it would pop up on cable. Unfortunately, the days of Defending airing on cable are apparently over, for I haven’t seen it in a long, long time – so long that Alissa has never seen it.* I decided to rectify that and went in search of a copy locally.

For the uninitiated, Defending Your Life is Albert Brooks’ film about the afterlife. Sounds fun, huh? It is! Brooks stars with Meryl Streep, two recently dead people who meet up after their deaths in Judgement City, a kind of terminal for departures to Heaven. While here, the recently deceased are judged on the actions and choices they’ve made in their lives. Rip Torn represents Daniel (Brooks) as his defendant in a heavenly courtroom where we see regrettable moments of his life. Ultimately, the decision comes down to whether Daniel deserves to move on to heaven or must come back to live another life.

This is one of those films that is not only wonderful, but is endlessly quotable. Usually the best quotes come from really pretty bad films – a good line sticks out so much better in a bad movie. This one, however, is just a stream of humorous lines. A couple of my favorite moments that seem to stick with me on a day to day basis: upon being shown to the new car that would eventually kill him, Daniel is first presented with a luxurious high-end sedan. (I’m having to paraphrase this, because I can’t find the quotes, sorry.) “There she is,” the salesman says, and Daniel is flustered at the sight of this new car. When it pulls away, revealing his real car, a small, lower-end convertible, he quips, “You can’t show me mine after letting me see that one. Mine looks like a turd in comparison.” Moments later he’s on the road, top down, loudly blasting Barbra Steisand’s take on “Something’s Coming” when another driver is heard in the background yelling “Do we all need to hear that?!”

I’m just going to copy this whole section right out of IMDB’s quotes. Forgive me, copyright gods:

Bob Diamond: For example, I use forty-eight percent of my brain. Do you know how much you use?
Daniel Miller: Forty… seven?
Bob Diamond: [laughs] Three.

[Lounge comedian is talking with audience members]
Comedian: How’d ya die?
Arthur: I was in a coma.
Comedian: I’m sorry. How long were you in the coma?
Arthur: I really don’t know.
Comedian: Let’s play a game, Art. Elvis: living or dead?
Arthur: Living.
Comedian: Long coma, Art. Long coma.
Comedian: Well, there’s a nice-looking young man over there. Hi, how’d ya die?
Daniel Miller: On stage, like you.

And reading quotes like that only makes me want to see it again even more. Unfortunately, that was not going to be easy.

I checked Tower Records’ DVD section, I checked Best Buy, Circuit City, I checked the used music/DVD stores . . . nothing. So I ordered it from an Amazon reseller for something like $8 – a pittance compared to the greatness of this movie. And yesterday a package arrived, the invoice for which stated that Defending Your Life was inside. I unfolded the clever cardboard packaging to find . . . Air Bud? I shook my head a couple times, checked the invoice again, then checked the address. Everything was correct, except the DVD, of course. Air Bud.

The first thought through my head after that was simple: “Has anyone ever purposely ordered Air Bud?” It then occured to me that maybe this was a ploy by Air Bud‘s distributor – “We’ve got a million of these things and no one’s buying! What are we going to do?” The answer is obvious – coax buyers of good movies into “accidently” receiving Air dud, with the hope that apathetic buyers will simply respond with an “Oh well, it was cheap” and keep the offending DVD instead of returning it.

But not me! My theory bears more weight when I received a reply to my email inquiring about returning the DVD for the correct one. It was simply a generic response from someone there informing me not of a return-merchandise authorization number, but that I could follow a link in the email to see the status of my order. I already know the status of my order: it’s incorrect! After sending another more sternly worded email re-stating in very clear terms my desire to not own Air Bud, I finally got what I needed to get this thing back to them.

So, in a few weeks, after Air Bud has slowly crawled across the country to them, and Defending Your Life has scooted its way, inch by inch, to me, Alissa and I might actually get to watch this great film. I know that the best things usually don’t come without some effort, but I really didn’t imagine this.

*Alissa now reports that she has seen it, and it was me who made her watch it. I didn’t think she could possibly escape the past 10 years with me without having seen it. That’s just not possible. I don’t mean to go all Frey on you, Dear Reader. I lied to America, and I ask forgiveness. Oh Oprah, can you forgive me?

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1 Comment »

  1. I also love Buck Henry’s role as the stand-in lawyer when Rip Torn is called away. And the montage of all of Daniel’s “bad decisions.” And the scene where Daniel is channel-surfing in his hotel room. Oh, the whole damn movie is brilliant.

    Comment by Chris — February 7, 2006 @ 10:51 am | Reply


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