Since one of the titles in this weeks Encapsulated Movie Reviews dealt with one man’s relationship with the almighty, it brought to mind another past classic comedy with some funny faith of its own – welcome to Forgotten Friday Flick! Today we’re heading into heavenly hilarity for some holy humor via the big guy himself. A tale that finally answers the question of is there a God and if so what’s he got to say – some amusing stuff it seems. Ask and ye shall receive, it’s…Oh, God!
Jerry Landers is a good guy. He’s a loving husband to wife Bobby, a caring father to his two kids and has a good job as an assistant supermarket manager. But one day Jerry gets a proposition from a kind old man who in fact turns out to be God. Seems the almighty is a tad concerned that everybody has forgotten him, so he wants Jerry to spread his message that he indeed exists, he cares and has provided people with everything they need to make it work. Sounds simple enough, but in trying to convince reporters, talk shows, religious leaders and even his own skeptical wife Jerry finds himself in way over his head.
Adapted from the clever book by Avery Corman, Oh, God! already has a solid story foundation to begin with, but in the hands of hilarious helmer Carl Reiner the film gets a boisterous boost in all areas. The script, which was nominated for an Oscar for M*A*S*H creator Larry Gelbart, and simple staging (the courtroom scenes are captivating!) work in tandem to get the most comedy bang for the buck – and Reiner knows funny. But his real genius as a director is his uncanny ability to cast just the right person for the role and in that area Oh, God! is by far his cinematic swan song. (Okay, The Jerk is a close second!) As the meek everyman Jerry, Reiner casts music man John Denver, who makes a perfect straight man to counterbalance the films outrageous premise. And as God himself, Reiner casts wry funnyman George Burns and a truly inspired selection it is. Quick with the quips, deeply droll and sporting a signature cap and thick glasses, Burns’ big guy is smart but distinctively human – not unlike the talented performer himself. So the chemistry between Burns and Denver is a huge part of what makes Oh, God! work and mixed with the genius of Reiner is a humor home run. Not to mention that Reiner also adds amazing actors in supporting roles including doc Donald Pleasance, the terrific Teri Garr as Denver’s dutiful wife and especially Paul Sorvino as a corrupt religious zealot, but this one is best when it’s a two man show and Denver and Burns are one dynamic duo.
Burns of course went on two make two more God movies (the good but repetitive Oh, God! Book II and silly Oh, God! You Devil!) that filled the need for more blessed Burns (when you think God is there any other person?!) and did decent at the box office. Though when all is said and done neither follow up hit the right notes like the original so skillfully did. But I say forgive and forget film fans and go back and enjoy Oh, God! again. Because heaven knows masterful movie miracles don’t come along every day.