Matthew Lauyer's film Living Will is... awkward. Why? Not because of the crass frat boy humor or because of the poop jokes that open the movie - those are fine for what they are and they'll probably make you chuckle if, like this writer, you think poop jokes are funny. No, this movie is awkward because it stars the late Ryan Dunn as a guy named Belcher. This puts Dunn in a role that will sort of hit hard for his fans. Those who appreciated Dunn's work on the various Jackass projects already know he died in a drunk driving accident earlier this year, so when the film opens with his best friend and roommate, Will (Gerard Haitz), wearing a 'Don't Drink Or Drive' shirt (it's got a picture of an Amish guy on it - get it?) you kind of have to cringe a bit, especially as Dunn's character drinks enough in this movie that you get the impression it was sponsored by Yuengling (and given the amount of product on display here, maybe it was).
At any rate, through a strange chain of events involving constipation and bacon grease, Belcher winds up dying and Will, though understandably upset about the loss of his best friend, has to move on without him. When he and Belcher's sexy cousin, Krista (April Scott), hit it off they start dating and it's around this time that Belcher basically comes back from the dead as a ghost to party it up some more and set Will straight on a few things. Will is the only one who can see Belcher, however, though the fact that Belcher can affect the physical environment leads to all sorts of mischief - but Belcher is worried that Will, so infatuated with Krista and rightly so, will soon forget about him.
For Dunn's substantial fan base, it'll be impossible to do the whole 'separate the art from the artist' thing here and not associate Dunn's character in the movie with Dunn the person. After all, it wasn't that long ago that he passed away and to see him whooping it up and partying like he does here will instantly bring to mind those trashy tabloid photos that we were bombarded with of him doing basically the same thing before he foolishly got behind the wheel and killed himself and a friend - so take that into account when discussing this film as it's going to affect the way a lot of people see this film. That said, Dunn is actually pretty good in this part. He handles the crass aspect of the film just as well as you'd expect him to (when we first see his character appear on screen he's sitting on the toilet asking Will to bring him some reading material). His personality suits the character well and to a certain extent you get the impression that he's just sort of playing himself here. Haitz and Scott are also fine in their respective roles and are believable enough together on the screen as a couple, but it's Dunn who gets most of the laughs here and if this isn't the sort of performance that will go down in legend, it's at least a respectable effort from the man.
The film is not without its flaws, however. The storyline gets predictable in spots and seems more intent on throwing in some (very welcome) nudity and (admittedly funny) crass jokes than to develop the story and the characters as fully as it could have. There's also the insistence to rely too heavily on a few montage scenes which comes across as a bit hokey. There are also a couple of supporting performances here that aren't entirely successful and a few moments that could have been edited a bit more tightly likely to better effect. Overall though, if you enjoy raunchy comedy and appreciate Dunn's deadpan delivery style, this is probably worth seeing. Oh, and don't be fooled by Bam Margera's top billing on the cover as he's in the film for about a minute and adds nothing of worth to it.
Living Will looks pretty good on this 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. There aren't any problems with mpeg compression artifacts or nasty edge enhancement but black levels do sometimes get a little bit murky and muddy looking, you'll notice this some of the darker throughout the film, though thankfully most of the picture is well light and fairly bright. Colors tend to look good and skin tones generally fare well enough even if they tend to be a bit more subdued looking than you might expect them, to be. Not an amazing image, but a perfectly acceptable one which generally looks very good.
The sole audio track for the feature is an English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix, with optional subtitles provided in English and Spanish. There isn't a ton of rear channel action here outside of the score, though some good channel separation is noticeable in the front of the mix and surrounds do kick in nicely in a couple of the more action intensive scenes and party scenes. Generally levels are well balanced and dialogue is easy enough to understand. There aren't really any problems here to complain about and it suits the movie well enough.
Dunn's fans will appreciate the seven minute A Tribute To Ryan Dunn but it's not much more than a few minutes of random footage assembled from the shoot - it was a nice thought though. A Behind The Scenes featurette gives us a look at what life was like on the set of this film while some deleted scenes, some outtakes and some slate gags provide a few minor laughs. Aside from that, look for a trailer for the feature and trailers for a few unrelated Lionsgate properties, menus and chapter selection.
Living Will isn't a masterpiece by any stretch but it will make you laugh if you find crass comedy funny. Dunn's performance is bitter sweet, as it's pretty good but you know had he lived longer he'd have probably gone on to better things - regardless, the target audience for this film will get a kick out of it. Lionsgate's DVD looks and sounds fine and if it's not stacked with extra features, it's got enough supplemental goodies to count. Whether or not it's a movie you'll want to watch over and over again, however, is pretty debatable so you're probably better off with a rental rather than a blind buy.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.