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Life as a House
DVD disk
10.06.2004 By: Scott Weinberg
Life as a House order
Director:
Irwin Winkler

Actors:
Kevin Kline
Kristin Scott Thomas
Hayden Christensen

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A bland yet good-natured schlub learns that he only has a few months left to live, so he decides to use his last days rebuilding his old house and patching up relationships with his estranged family.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Life as a House is clearly one of those “outspokenly emotional” flicks that work overtime on your sympathy glands. As is the case with most tearjerkers, how “good” a movie it is will vary greatly from person to person. Someone who maybe knew a guy like George will find something personal in Life as a House, while those who have long since overdosed on the “three-hanky flick” will probably not have a great time. The eclectic cast goes a long way toward making Life as a House better than average. Kevin Kline adds yet another fine performance to his body of work, while veteran character actors Mary Steenburgen and Kristin Scott Thomas are as strong as ever.

Much attention has been paid to the performance of Hayden Christensen (Star Wars Episode 2) and he does manage to deliver good work, but the standout of the cast is young Jena Malone as George’s teenaged neighbor. (If you had told me that the obnoxious little girl from Stepmom would eventually offer a performance this strong, I’d have been mightily surprised.) There’s nothing wrong with curling up with a movie for a nice cry. Fans of Kevin Kline and those who love movies a bit on the melancholy side will most enjoy this film. As far as tearjerkers go, this one is (at the very least) considerably less forced and manipulative than many of its ilk.
THE EXTRAS
As usual, New Line delivers the goods in the extras department. Most notable is a screen-specific audio commentary with screenwriter Mark Andrus, producer Rob Cowan and director Irwin Winkler. You might think that a commentary for a flick like this would prove to be a drab and dry affair, but this trio fills the track with a surprising wealth of information. Fans of the movie should definitely enjoy this commentary.

The first of two documentaries is Character Building: Inside Life as a House (24:02) which is a mildly interesting glimpse inside the acting process that features the always-charming Kevin Kline. Next up is From the Ground Up (10:13), which focuses on the various houses used in the production, and some interviews with cast & crew. Neither feature is spectacular, but they do complement the film well. Also included are four deleted scenes, each with an optional audio commentary from Winkler, Cowan and Andrus. Standard extras include a series of production notes and the original theatrical trailer.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
LIFE AS A HOUSE is much less cloying and transparent that most of your average tearjerker flicks. The production is helped immeasurably by the strong performance of Kevin Kline and a handful of colorful supporting characters.
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