Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB
USA, 1990. Laurence Mark Productions, Silver Screen Partners IV, Touchstone Pictures. Screenplay by James Orr, Jim Cruickshank. Cinematography by Alex Thomson. Produced by Jim Cruickshank, James Orr. Music by David Newman. Production Design by Michael Seymour. Costume Design by Jane Greenwood. Film Editing by Michael R. Miller.
Modern-day riff on It’s A Wonderful Life that has Jim Belushi as a lowly office worker at an athletics company who laments the disappointments of his life. His marriage to Linda Hamilton, who works on the factory side of the company, no longer has much spark, he envies his boss’s marriage to elegant Rene Russo and isn’t inspired by either his day job or his extra-curricular hobbies. He attributes all this misery to the one moment in his youth that went awry, when he had the chance to win a big victory for his little league team but struck out instead, and nothing has gone right since (newsflash, buddy, it’s the guys who score big on the diamond in their youth who end up driving everyone nuts with stories about their glory days). On the night that his car breaks down, Belushi realizes he’s had it with a life overwhelmed with setbacks, heading into a bar where the bartender (Michael Caine) willingly hears his tale of woe. Little does our hero know that Caine, despite being dressed as shabbily as him (and as almost everyone is in this dull-looking film) is an angel who makes all his dreams come true, switching the events of the past baseball game and writing a new present. Now our protagonist is the president of the same company, lives in a house the size of a museum, is married to Russo and owns every fancy sports car known to humankind. You already know that the message he is going to learn is to appreciate what he has, but what’s missing is the pleasure of everything leading up to that, which if it was done well would make the plot’s familiarity easily forgivable. Belushi’s character spends far too many scenes in disbelief and confusion about what is happening, long after the audience has accepted the film’s concept he still questions it and what should be amusing is frustrating instead, and he doesn’t enjoy the fun of this fantasy nearly enough before waking up to his true desires at the end. It’s ludicrous that the filmmakers would create such an indulgence without ever actually indulging in it, compounding the problem with a lifeless performance by Belushi in the lead and patient but unmotivated turns by the women in his life (there’s also Courteney Cox as his mistress) who are clearly cashing their cheques and waiting for better in the future (which in all three cases is soon to come).