Why did Judge Patrick Naugle cross the road?
Chances are you'll fall in love!
District Attorney Louie Jeffries (Christopher McDonald, Happy Gilmore) seems to have the perfect life: a promising law career, a loving wife, and a new baby on the way. Unfortunately, Louie's plans unravel when he's unexpectedly hit by a car, instantly killed, then whisked away to heaven. Upon his entrance through the pearly gates, the angels agree to send Louie back, but in a different body. The angel in charge of past life suppression forget to give Louie his shot, and twenty three years later Louie—now known as recent college graduate Alex Finch (Robert Downey Jr, Marvel's The Avengers)—comes back into his wife Corrine's (Cybill Shepherd, Cybill) life after meeting Corrine's daughter Miranda (Mary Stuart Masterson, Fried Green Tomatoes) at a local library. Things get complicated when Louie's memories and love for Corrine resurface just as Alex is striking up a romance with Miranda. At the same time, Louie's former best friend and Corrine's confidant, Phillip (Ryan O'Neal, Paper Moon), is also in love with Corrine, but has never been brave enough to tell her. Chances Are that love is in the air…even if it's not in the right body.
If you can believe it, there was a time when Robert Downey, Jr. wasn't Iron Man. The actor's storied personal life has seen many ups and downs, eventually leading Downey to the superstar status he holds today. However, older viewers will remember Downey not as a metal-clad superhero but as a wild eyed actor with proclivities toward eccentric behavior both on and off screen. 1989 was during Downey's transition from teenage heartthrob to full blown adult actor. Following such middling fare as Johnny Be Good and 1969, Downey found himself opposite Cybill Shepherd and Ryan O'Neal in the romantic body swapping comedy Chances Are.
I hadn't seen Chances Are since it was released in 1989. My memories of the film are good ones, so I was a little hesitant to revisit it, full knowing how many movies have let me down after sitting dormant since childhood (thank you, Swiss Family Robinson). Nostalgia is a funny thing, as it can take a movie that you cherished as a child and turn it into a nasty surprise two decades later. It's one of the reasons some people just leave well enough alone and don't revisit movies from when they were kids. Being a movie reviewer, I usually don't have that luxury.
First of all, let me say that Chances Are is a perfectly fine little romantic comedy. I really don't have a lot of bad things to say about it, per say. Robert Downey, Jr. is decently charming in the role of a man whose past life literally comes back to haunt him. The supporting cast features some good actors—Christopher McDonald, Mary Stuart Masterson, Ryan O'Neil, Cybill Shepherd—giving often amusing performances from a screenplay that, at the very least, has a nugget of originality. The film is directed ably by the late Emile Ardolino, whose credits include the 1987 hit Dirty Dancing, the sequel Three Men and a Little Lady, and the Whoopi Goldberg comedy Sister Act. By all accounts, Chances Are is passable date night fare. No more, no less.
Therein lays the problem. There isn't a whole lot that separates Chances Are from the pack. As I sit here writing this review, I'm realizing that most of the film has already evaporated from my memory. There were a few funny bits (I especially liked the scenes that took place up in heaven), but even those were just light laughs, not true gut-busters. Robert Downey, Jr. gives the performance his all, but the screenplay by Perry and Randy Howze (who worked on such '80s classics as Mystic Pizza and Maid to Order) is pedestrian without much wit or style. Again, Chances Are isn't a bad movie, just an exceptionally forgettable one.
Chances Are (Blu-ray) 25th Anniversary Edition is presented in 1.85:1/1080p HD widescreen, offering up a very attractive transfer, with bright colors and solid black levels. While the image retains a sort of warm glow, that was more of a directorial choice than an issue with the picture. The DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio track gets the job done with clear dialogue, music, and effects. Also included on this disc are English SDH subtitles. There are no bonus features.
I wanted to like Chances Are more than I did. It went down fairly easy, but it didn't fill me up. Those of you who enjoy light romantic comedies won't regret giving it spin, but chances are (pun intended) that once the end credits roll you'll be feeling like you've been there and done that.
Worth seeing for Robert Downey Jr's performance…and that's about it.
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