Paramount // 1996 // 112 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // February 9th, 2004
Many people write to God.
Someone is answering.
Tom Turner (Greg Kinnear, As Good As It Gets, Sabrina) is a small time con artist with big time problems. After getting caught at a local parade trying to hustle money out of unsuspecting pedestrians (his routines include pretending to be a burn victim and spinning yarns about sick relatives), Tom is taken before a judge and sentenced to one of two options: head to prison or get a real job (oh, the horror! The horror!). Not surprisingly Tom chooses the latter, which stipulates that he must work there for at least a year, and quickly finds a place inside the halls of the local post office. There he's hired to work in the DOL, aka Dead Letter Office, with a bunch of goofy co-workers, including a frazzled ex-lawyer (Laurie Metcalf, Scream 2), a disgruntled ex-postal route master (Tim Conway, The Private Eyes), and other folks who seem to live their lives just left of the middle. After seeing some of the perks of the DOL, where letters to Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny end up, Tom thinks he may have found the perfect score. However, things quickly change once he starts reading some of the letters desperate people have tried to mail to God. One letter leads to another, and suddenly Tom and his "God Squad" are answering prayers all throughout Los Angeles. Tom's outlook on life slowly changes for the better, as he learns the value of lending a helping hand to those in need.
Everyone say it with me: "Awwwwww, ain't that sweet!"
We need more inspiring movies that show God in a better light. In Bruce Almighty they're getting closer. Garry Marshall's Dear God is not. After watching Dear God, I found myself slightly surprised that the DVD itself wasn't covered in honey when I pulled it out of my player. The movie is bathed in sugary sweetness, something I've come to associate with Marshall, who's made a few decent movies (I kind of enjoyed Overboard) and a lot of bad ones (Exit To Eden, The Princess Diaries, take your pick). In Dear God, we're given a pre-stardom Greg Kinnear proving he has an easy going style, but not enough to carry a screenplay as lackluster as this. So many of the gags fall flat that I hasten to say this is one film that could have benefited from a laugh track. In what may be one of the single most annoying performances of 1996, Laurie Metcalf, best known for her role in the '90s sitcom Roseanne, mugs, yells, and gasps at every turn possible. That job would have been better suited for Tim Conway. Instead, the veteran comedian mopes across the screen with little to do but fall into a mail bin and spin yarns about biting a German Shepard on the kneecap (n'yuck, n'yuck). A few other familiar faces show up, including Maria Pitillo (Godzilla) as Kinnear's love interest, the late Nancy Marchand (The Sopranos) as a judge, and Roscoe Lee Brown (The Cowboys) as one of the loony "God Squad" teammates. Yet no one is able to pull the film out of the depths of contrivance the writers have seen fit to sink it in. Dear God bounces from miracle to miracle, each one using over baked sentimentality to tug at the viewer's heartstrings. The fact is none of this stuff is particularly moving. Everything feels as if it's been churned out of some cookie-cutter movie machine that is only one notch above a made-for-TV Hallmark special. To cap things off, the film ends in one of those courtroom scenes where speeches are made, hearts are mended, and reality is chucked out the window. The movie's title is certainly fitting -- it may be the statement you utter as the end credits roll.
Dear God is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. This transfer looks decent, though it won't win any awards. The biggest flaw I noticed is the muted colors and somewhat washed look of the film. Otherwise the transfer is clear of any major defects -- I spotted no dirt or edge enhancement anywhere in the image. Black levels appear to be in very good shape and flesh tones accurately represented. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English, as well as Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround in English and French. Dear God isn't a movie requiring a 5.1 mix, but here it is -- directional effects and surround sounds are at a bare minimum. The dialogue, music and effects are all clear and well recorded, but the dynamic range isn't much to write home about. This sound mix won't blow away your home theater system, though it's apt for the movie it's supporting. Also included on this disc are English subtitles.
As for the supplemental materials...well, I think I've covered this enough times that you already know the answer. Paramount catalog release = zero extra features.
Review content copyright © 2004 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
Running Time: 112 Minutes
Release Year: 1996
MPAA Rating: Rated PG