One And Done: Limbo

limbo one and done index

Most of the reviews featured in this section are pilots of either unaired tv shows or ones which were broadcast but never picked up for a full series, but every so often we cover a short film and this is such an occasion, a high concept one off comedy that stars Jon H. Benjamin (Bob’s Burgers, Archer, Jon Benjamin Has A Van) and Natasha Leggero (Another Period, Dice) and which despite what the title suggests is set in Heaven.

Limbo came about in an unusual manner as it’s an adaptation of a short story that Adam Spielman posted on Reddit (which you can read here) and after he gave director Fangso Liu and producer Haines Landry permission to adapt it they managed to get Jon Benjamin to star, and Benjamin’s Bob’s Burgers co-star Dan Mintz (who’s also a writer for the sublime Nathan For You) in as a consulting producer, and then ran a kickstarter campaign which managed to raise $31,404. That’s obviously not a huge amount of money but it looks fantastic throughout, which is all to their credit.

It starts with our meeting Jim (Jon Benjamin), a vaguely sleazy guy who’s on a beach and staring at an attractive woman wearing only a bikini, with Jim then suddenly keeling over with a heart attack and dying. One burst of big band music later and he wakes up in a bar and is instantly given pizza and a light beer with the line “Hi, welcome to Heaven, here’s your pizza” because in a similar way to the recent episodes of The Good Place, Heaven is at least partially whatever you so wish it to be.

Because Jim isn’t exactly the most politically correct man in the world he’s then shown around his brand new afterlife and gets to see two semi-naked women spanking each other (who apparently love partaking in such a thing), and Jim is told that “You can have them after dinner”, and also that when it comes to Heave there’s “No catch, everyone gets in, everyone gets what they want” and how “If you’re Jim you get Chicken wings and bitches”.

Due to Jim being a man of simple pleasures we then cut to Jim having sex on a beach and when he ejaculates it’s pie, which is the lady he’s involved with’s fantasy apparently. Jim’s a slightly pedantic fella however as he starts wondering “If this place is having what you want all the time, how do you know what’s true? What if we’re in hell?” and so he then gets to meet Lucifer who just so happens to be in charge of heaven, but isn’t the big bad devil in the slightest. In fact she comes in the form of Natasha Legerro who tells him if he ever wants to know the truth he can visit a certain address, but if he does he’ll never be able to return to heaven. And then she gives him chicken and oral sex, because apparently she’s the hostess with the mostess and then some.

Jim’s concerns are known as “The Paradox” and he’s clearly not the first to ever question the nature of this new reality, but he’s able to put off finding out the real truth about his post death experiences for 376 years. Yet again as with The Good Place there gets a point where he seems to have become exhausted by non-stop pleasure, and so visits the address Lucifer gave him to find out what really is taking place.

The central idea is that even presented with paradise man will never be truly happy, or at least not forever, and it also throws up some questions about faith and fate, with it suggested that in the end Jim was always going to be end up leaving the place given his concerns about the nature of reality, as one of the officials informs him “This wouldn’t be paradise with you moping around”. It also mirrors the story of Adam and Eve on this front, though as with that tale it’s easy to feel sympathy for the lead as deities sure do seem to like to be shitty and fuck with humanity.

As much as it’s a cute idea it could only ever have been a one off, and though the writer of the original short has created further stories of Jim’s time in Heaven I can’t imagine wanting to see them if only because Jim’s a bit of a douchebag when it comes to women and his treatment of them, and while the concept is a fun one unless he became far more sympathetic it would have been a struggle to enjoy seeing him screw about in Heaven.

As it is this is a fun little short then, which has a good few lines, a couple of great performances from Benjamin and Leggero, and an intriguing enough idea that poses questions about the nature of humanity and existentialism, but it’s by no means essential viewing. Despite all the positives I can’t help but wish that it had been fleshed out a little more, that it was maybe thirty minutes long instead of fifteen so that the concept could have been explored in further detail, and we’d have learnt more about Jim’s struggles with the set up, because unfortunately despite looking great it feels like a slightly lightweight, empty affair.

★★★

Alex Finch.
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You can watch Limbo here.

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