Heaven can Wait (1978)

(On Cable TV, April 2017) Some movies hold up better than ever, but Heaven Can Wait isn’t one of them. The problem isn’t with the period detail, Warren Beatty’s performance or any of the 1978-specific aspects of the film. The problem is the annoying way in which its premise is executed. Beatty plays a lunkheaded football player who dies before his time and is sent back to Earth as a rich man with ongoing problems of his own. But what could have a sprightly fantasy ends up dragged by a script as dumb as its protagonist. Our dimwitted hero has trouble accepting that his football player body is gone, and keeps insisting that he’s going to play the SuperBowl anyway. The movie eventually obliges, in one of the most blatant instance of contrived plotting ever put on film. But the way from Point A to point B is made even worse by the moronic character, adding empty minutes to a film that should move much faster. There is a particularly egregious five-minute scene in which our protagonist laboriously recaps the film for the benefit of a friend, leaving viewers gnashing in exasperation. If the movie was reaching for a grand message on life and its preciousness, it’s more than muddled by the protagonist’s bull-headed insistence on not changing a thing. The body-switching aspect is more painful than amusing (see above about the stupidity of the script) and the laughs are few and far between in what’s supposed to be a comedy. If you haven’t seen it yet, Heaven can Wait can definitely wait.

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