Just call me butter 'cause I'm on a roll! Remember I said during my last review that this one would be coming up very soon for a Vault Pick? Bet you didn't think it would be this soon, did you? Bet you really could care less how soon it was, huh? Well for those that do care (I'm raising my hand) I figured I would go ahead and knock out this one while it was fresh on my mind. Plus, it's been a while since I way back for a Vault Pick so this one was due.
I had no idea at the time that I first saw "Heaven Can Wait" in the 80s that it was a remake. It probably wasn't until a few years later that Mom brought to my attention that the original film was "Here Comes Mr. Jordan". I do remember when I heard that that I sought out that movie to see how it would compare. It didn't matter that it was black and white because at the time I was into those. Unfortunately, I just wasn't feeling the original. Maybe it's because the sports aspect of it (which was boxing) was so dated.
But in 1978's version, they went with something I could definitely get behind: football. They didn't have Pop Warner back then (at least not where I went to school) but they did have flag football. Since I was into that then any movie with football as one of the themes was cool with me. What was even better was it wasn't one of those flicks where they used made-up teams either. It was the actual NFL. It may not have been the real players, but I still recognized the uniforms and helmets. That was good enough.
I may be getting a little ahead of myself. There may be some folks out there who aren't familiar with this classic so let me give you a quick synopsis. Joe Pendleton (Warren Beatty) is a second string quarterback for the Rams aspiring for greatness. One day on a jog he's involved in near-collision where an over-anxious angel (Buck Henry) wants to spare him the pain of the impending accident so he takes him to heaven. Only it was before his time. To make up for the snafu, the angel's boss, Mr. Jordan (James Mason) makes him the deal that he can come back in another body since his has been incinerated.
Now that I look back on this one, there was quite a lot going on it for it to be a comedy. Besides the portion I just mentioned, there was also the fact that Joe was brought back in the body of a millionaire whose wife (Dyan Cannon) and lover (Charles Grodin) were trying to kill him. Meanwhile, he ends up falling for a human rights activist (Julie Christie) while trying to get his loaner body ready to try out for the Rams so he can get them to the Super Bowl. You really have to see it to fully appreciate the storyline. Or storylines as the case may be.
"Heaven Can Wait" really is a movie that serves a dual purpose at its core. The first is that it is a comedy. They achieve the goal of laughter with no problem at all thanks to Beatty's perfect timing. But it's more than him. Everyone in their respective roles were priceless. Jack Warden as the coach. Even Grodin and Cannon whose actions alone without even needing words will elicit humor.
I ultimately think that one of the big reasons I like this movie is so much is it has a little bit of a message to it in just it's overall theme. If you had a second chance at life what would you do with your opportunity? But instead of doing it as yourself, it had to be with someone else's life. People are often hypothesizing what it would be like to be someone else and here's a guy who gets to live that out. Even though he didn't want to.
The biggest plus that "Heaven Can Wait" had was the way it handled the whole concept of the afterlife better than any other film I had ever seen up to that point. Even as I think of movies I had seen after, this one remains heads and shoulders above the rest in that category. It's always a delicate subject but the manner in which they combined light-hearted comedy with a little drama without overdoing either is why this one remains one of my all-time favorites.