Steve Martin has made a number of funny films, several of them with director Carl Reiner, a very funny man in his own right; but none of Martin's films is any funnier than "All of Me," his fourth collaboration with Reiner. Add Lily Tomlin to the mix and you get a delightful fantasy comedy, at times laugh-out-loud uproarious. If you've never seen it before, you're in for a treat.
Martin plays a bachelor lawyer, Roger Cobb, who feels trapped by his workaday existence and his abrasive girlfriend. He longs to play in a jazz band, which he does most evenings, much to the annoyance of his boss. Enter Edwina Cutwaters (Tomlin), a very wealthy, ill-tempered, bedridden spinster who is about to die and wants to leave her fortune to...herself! She has a cunning plan.
With the help of an Eastern swami named Prahka Lasa (Richard Libertini), she intends upon her death to transfer her spirit into the body of her stableman's daughter, thus inheriting a new, healthy life while getting to keep all of her money. Trouble is, Roger gets in the way. He's there to take care of the legality of the transference, and by accident Edwina's spirit winds up in his body. Neither of them is too happy about it.
Martin is hilarious as a man with two identities, each of them vying for attention. Roger has control of one side of his body, Edwina the other. A scene in a men's room with Roger trying valiantly to get Edwina to help him relieve himself is classic. After her character's death early on in the film, Tomlin is seen entirely in reflections. Every time Roger looks in a mirror, Edwina is staring back at him. At one point, Martin is even called upon to act the part of Edwina pretending to be Roger. It's a slick double twist on the split-personality gambit.
The film starts off at a leisurely pace, quickly picks up laughs through the middle, and then gets a little silly by the end, as though the screenwriter wasn't quite sure how to resolve the situation. The body sharing is a premise that wears thin sooner than the movie would like. All the same, the mid portion is sidesplitting and makes the film worth watching.
The picture and sound are not quite up to the level of the funniness, however. The closing credits indicate the film was shot in Panavision, but Lionsgate have chosen to present it in a standard, 1.33:1 screen format. It is not a big-scale movie, anyway, so there isn't a lot lost in the translation, but as a matter of principle I would have preferred the original movie theater dimensions. The image quality throughout is about average for a DVD transfer.
The Dolby Digital sound, alas, is somewhat dull overall. Again, because this is not a major epic, the loss of clarity, transient response, and frequency range is of small importance; nevertheless, it is a loss.
Lionsgate provide little additional material beyond the expected scene access, trailer, and cast information. But I did like their main menu design; not because it is particularly dazzling to look at, but because it is so functional. Unlike most menus, which make you wait for a new screen change each time you choose something, this one unfolds windows within the main menu, much as most PC's or Mac computers do. Now, why didn't someone think of that before?
"All of Me" has some of the elements of "Heaven Can Wait" (1978), another winning comedy about a spirit transposed into different bodies. The older film had more charm, but "All of Me" produces more belly laughs. One could, perhaps, have hoped for fancier visual and sonic splendors from the DVD, but one could not hope for more humor than from this unassuming title. If you already own "All of Me" on VHS tape, you might consider the convenience of DVD. If you don't already own the film or haven't seen it before, I strongly recommend the disc.