Heaven Can Wait (1978)

WARREN BEATTY, BUCK HENRY

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBB

USA, 1978.  Paramount Pictures.  Screenplay by Warren Beatty, , based on the play by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by Warren Beatty.  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by , .  Academy Awards 1978.  Golden Globe Awards 1978.  

Lightweight romantic comedy stars Warren Beatty (who also co-wrote, co-directed and co-produced with ) as a football hero who dies young and is told by the man upstairs (played by a deliciously smarmy James Mason) that he’s come to heaven too early. He must be returned to earth in human form, but his original body is no longer available and therefore his soul must be given to someone else’s physical being; celestial employees find the perfect candidate in a rich, aging millionaire whose wife (Dyan Cannon) and accountant have just murdered him. Imagine the conspirators’ surprise when the old guy comes back from the grave! The hilarity turns to serious romance when Beatty meets the lovely Julie Christie and needs to find a way to become himself again and stick around for good. Beatty gives a dependable performance, while Cannon steals all her scenes as the mentally unstable murderess. The entire project hasn’t aged so well over the years (it was a Best Picture nominee in its year, while as now just seems the average romantic comedy), but it’s good fun to watch big stars in something so enjoyably breezy. Remade from the 1941 film Here Comes Mr. Jordan (it has no relation to Ernst Lubistch’s Heaven Can Wait) and remade again decades later as Down To Earth starring Chris Rock.

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