I suppose it’s the fate of all zombie comedies from here on out to be compared to “Shaun of the Dead”, and unfortunately for them they will almost always come up short. “Livelihood” is not as good as “Shaun of the Dead”, but it’s not trying to be “Shaun of the Dead”.
“Livelihood” takes the, perhaps overused, route of following three separate storylines that are loosely related. In this case, all three stories involve a person coming back from the dead and trying to resume their previous life. The strongest of the three features a surprisingly well preserved 80’s hair metal rocker that died after a gig and comes back to reform his band. Another has an underachieving but overly optimistic office worker who gets murdered by a samurai (yes, a samurai) and comes back only to find his girlfriend has moved on and he can’t get his job back. The weakest involves a family feud between an overly affectionate mother and her son’s wife. After the mother dies, the wife thinks she can finally have her husband back but of course mommy doesn’t stay dead.
The film makes the poor decision to end with this story, despite the fact that the band storyline ended with what would have been a great film finale. This makes the ending they went with come off as more than a little anticlimactic.
Director Ryan Graham has a bit of a hard time balancing the three stories and we end up leaving them for extended periods of time, but for the most part things flow pretty smoothly. However, it’s obvious that story is secondary to laughs in a movie like this and the film hits more than it misses in that department.
The film features some extremely witty dialogue but a lot of it probably sounded better on the page than it did spoken. There were many times when people seemed like they were reading a script instead of speaking naturally, or, even worse, came off they were in a really awful sketch comedy show. Also, for every timely and original joke there was one that was either clichéd or several years too late (is it still funny to make Corey Haim jokes?).
The actors performed admirably for the most part but there were a few bad apples in the bunch. Everyone in the band segment did a great job, with the deaf keyboard player standing out as particularly amusing, and the actors in the office worker segment were strong for the most part, particularly the female leads Lori S. Yanke and Kara Webb, but there were some questionable performances from supporting characters. The dead mother story, however, was pretty poorly acted (and written, for that matter). The three leads were never believable or funny but they were almost saved by an appearance from the husband’s crippled zombie hating boss.
I think the team behind “Livelihood” has a great movie in them somewhere. You can see one trying to break through here. If they could maybe focus on one good story instead of trying to balance multiple ones and make the jokes come off a bit more naturally then they just might have something.