The divine comedy that will make you believe.
We just don't see enough religious comedies these days. In an age of cruel comedy and tasteless gags, a film about the Almighty Being would be fodder for Hollywood's manipulative cannon (ala Kevin Smith's funny but often tasteless Dogma). But I think there was a time when sweet-natured comedy was ably mixed with religious ideas to create something that was inoffensive and downright enjoyable. The end product: Carl Reiner's 1977 hit Oh, God! And who better to play the Lord our God than the late, great George Burns? Oh, God! ended up being a smash with audiences and went on to spawn two sequels: 1980's Oh, God! Book II and 1984's Oh, God! You Devil. Oh, God! was also notable as late singer/songwriter John Denver's first starring role in a movie. Also starring Teri Garr (Tootsie), Paul Sorvino (Dick Tracy), and Donald Pleasence (Halloween), Oh, God! brings some enlightenment to everyone's DVD player care of Warner Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
Jerry Landers (Denver) lives a simple life as a grocery store assistant manager with his cute wife (Garr) and their two children in beautiful Burbank, California. But everything is about to change for Jerry when he's hand picked by the one and only God (Burns) to spread the Lord's good word to the masses. At first Jerry is apprehensive about God's choice ("I'm just a man," Jerry exclaims, "I'm no Moses!"), but he soon realizes that while he may not believe in God, God certainly believes in him. After a few encounters with the Lord, Jerry becomes God's PR person as he begins spreading His news via the newspaper, TV, and radio. His wife thinks he's crazy. Others are saying he's a religious nut. But Jerry knows the truth, and so does God!
Get ready for divine intervention in one the most "heavenly" comedies ever created!
I know that there's a lot of you out there who are on the fence about this whole "God" thing. Personally, I'm a Christian and a believer. I'm not judgmental—or at least I try not to be—about other people's religions or faiths (or lack thereof). That being said, maybe we all need to sit down and watch Oh, God! together. It's a cute and funny movie, but it's more than that. It's a film that gets you thinking about the bigger picture.
Am I sounding a bit too theological for a movie starring John Denver and Teri Garr? Maybe. But I have to tell you that Oh, God! is one of the best movies I've seen in a long time. It could be that I'm getting somewhat tired of all the crap Hollywood puts out these days. I love horror movies and action flicks, though sometimes my soul and mind yearn for something more…something healthier. Oh, God! is a wonderful little movie for parents and children to watch together. It's sweet without being saccharine. It's amiable without being lazy. And wrapping it all up in a neat little bow is George Burns as what may be the most important character ever put on film.
The story is very simple: God picks a guy to go out and spread His Good News. There aren't a lot of twists or turns in the script—what you see is what you get. As directed by Carl Reiner (The Jerk, Summer Rental), Oh, God! becomes a moving and witty comedy that easily could have treaded into either tasteless waters or syrupy Little House on the Prairie sentimentality. Reiner finds the right balance here and comes out with a hit. One reason the film connected with audiences may lie in the fact that it's a fairly non-committal religious tone: the God in Oh, God! doesn't believe in any one religion (when asked if Jesus Christ was his son, God shoots back, "Jesus was my son. Buddha was my son. Mohammed, Moses, you…the man who said there was no room in the Inn was my son"). This way the film is accessible to all audiences, no matter what religious background they come from (except atheists…I guess they're kind of screwed).
Everyone in the film plays their parts accordingly without too much overacting or theatrics (save for Paul Sorvino, though his character warrants it). Reiner couldn't have picked a better everyman than John Denver. With his boyish face and stammering speech, Denver embodies how all of us might feel if God actually came down and started having a conversation with us (I especially liked the scene where, to prove himself, God makes it rain in Jerry's car and only Jerry's car). Teri Garr is frantically cute as Jerry's baffled wife, and George Burns is…well, George Burns. Can you think of a better actor to play the role of God (just as Jack Nicholson was the perfect Devil in The Witches of Eastwick)? Burns radiates elderly wisdom and charm, making God not only down-to-earth but also adorable and crackling.
I know that Oh, God! probably won't turn anyone to religion. But hey, it's a start. In an age of body counts and bare breasts, foul language and gross out gags, Oh, God! is a breath of fresh air. Some may scoff at its simplicity, but I praise it. We all could use a little divine intervention in our lives, even if it's only though the medium of cinema.
Oh, God! is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Unfortunately, Warner's work on this title is less than holy. While the image's colors and black levels all appear solid and dark, the picture sometimes retains a softness that is often distracting. On top of that imperfection is the fact that there's a ton of dirt and grain to be found, along with a few nicks and scratches on occasion. The transfer is passable, but only slightly so.
The audio doesn't fare much better. Presented in Dolby Digital Mono in English, this soundtrack is uniformly flat and uninspiring. Not surprisingly, dynamic range and fidelity are sorely missing here. However, forgiveness can be granted seeing as this is a dialogue heavy comedy and not an effects laden action flick. Most all of the dialogue, effects, and music are clear of any excessive hiss or distortion. Also included on this disc are Spanish, English, French, and Portuguese subtitles.
The extra features on Oh, God! include a commentary track by director Carl Reiner, actress Teri Garr, writer Larry Gelbart, and producer Jerry Weintraub, and theatrical trailers for all three Oh, God! movies. The commentary is both winning and amusing—each participant spends equal time chatting about the movie and its production as well as cracking jokes about what's happening on-screen and at each other. This is defiantly one of the more enjoyable commentaries I've listened to.
I guess I was really in the mood for something light and cute, and Oh, God! is most certainly that. It's got a funny script, winning performances and a wonderful message that everyone should take away with them (believe in God and maybe things will get better). Warner's work on this disc is decent—for about 15 bucks, it won't break your wallet.
Anything less than a dismissal would be a sin! Amen!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Audio Commentary by Director Carl Reiner, Actress Teri Garr, Writer Larry Gelbart, and Producer Jerry Weintraub
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