Heaven Can Wait (1978)

Heaven Can Wait (1978)

“The likelihood of one individual being right increases in direct proportion to the intensity with which others are trying to prove him wrong.”

A football star (Warren Beatty) taken to heaven prematurely by an overeager angel (Buck Henry) is sent back to Earth to complete his life in the body of a recently murdered millionaire.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Dyan Cannon Films
  • Football
  • Julie Christie Films
  • Life After Death
  • Plot to Murder
  • Romantic Comedy
  • Untimely Death
  • Warren Beatty Films

Warren Beatty’s directorial debut — a remake of 1941’s Here Comes Mr. Jordan — isn’t quite worthy of its predecessor, but remains an enjoyably loopy romantic comedy. The entire situation defies belief, naturally; but once you allow yourself to accept the basic premise, it’s great fun to watch the likable Beatty trying to take over the burdens of a ruthless, hated millionaire when he really only has one goal in mind: to play in the Superbowl. Best of all, however, is Dyan Cannon as Beatty’s adulterous wife — she shines in some of the movie’s most hilarious moments, and is reason enough to watch this film at least once.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Beatty as the wrongfully killed football star who tries to make the best of his new situation
  • Jack Warden as Beatty’s coach — the only one on Earth who knows the truth about his situation
  • Dyan Cannon and Charles Grodin as Beatty’s duplicitous wife and her lover

Must See?
No, but it’s an enjoyable romantic comedy, and recommended for viewing at least once.


One thought on “Heaven Can Wait (1978)

  1. Not must-see, but certainly a reasonably entertaining comedy that is not a waste of time. And credit must go to Elaine May, who co-wrote.

    I’m of the opinion that ‘Here Comes Mr. Jordan’ is not that good a film so, in that light, ‘HCW’ (to me) is a marked improvement. John Waters has said that it’s pointless to remake a film that worked and worked well the first time – and I agree with that. So I think ‘HCW’ is a prime example of how to take an idea that faltered the first time and make it better. I still don’t love it but it’s breezy enough.

    ~especially when certain exchanges come along in it. Like:

    “Mr. Farnsworth…isn’t it true that an accident in your west coast nuclear plant could stimulate seismic activity in the San Andreas fault which could destroy most of southern California?”

    “I think you’d have to define ‘destroy’.”

    ~which Elaine May is certainly responsible for. I would be happy with more of this kind of dialogue in the film but there’s a nice amount, I suppose.

    Cannon is often talked about as being terrific in this movie but I find her role a little frustratingly under-written, when it could easily have been bigger. She screams rather hilariously a few times and has a few nice lines but to me the role is smaller than it should be. Cannon should have had more of a career (with better roles) when she was in her prime. She comes off to better effect in ‘Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice’ and (most certainly in) ‘The Last of Sheila’.

    The performance I’m most taken with here is given by Julie Christie. It’s nice to see her holding her own well with a nice-sized part in a light comedy.

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