Oh, God! (1977)

Oh, God! (1977)

“I took this form because if I showed myself to you as I am, you wouldn’t be able to comprehend me.”

A humble supermarket manager (John Denver) is visited by God (George Burns) in the form of an older man, and told to spread the word about His hopes for mankind.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Carl Reiner Films
  • Comedy
  • Donald Pleasence Films
  • Fantasy
  • George Burns Films
  • “No One Believes Me!”
  • Ralph Bellamy Films
  • Religious Faith
  • Teri Garr Films

This immensely popular ’70s comedy — which sparked two sequels and a current remake — is, unfortunately, a tedious bore. The central casting decision, considered a “coup” by many, is one problem (Burns-as-God simply doesn’t work), but the primary issue is the decidedly unfunny script, which is littered with throw-away lines like God in a courtroom stating, “So help me Me,” or God insisting that he doesn’t normally work miracles (“The last miracle I did was the 1969 Mets; before that, I think you have to go back to the Red Sea.”) Ha ha. Denver is, fortunately, both appealing and believable in the lead role, and Teri Garr turns in yet another compassionate performance as the wife of a man going slowly around the bend (a la Richard Dreyfuss in the same year’s Close Encounters) — but even their performances can’t save this clunker from sinking, and fast.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • John Denver as Jerry
  • Teri Garr as Jerry’s compassionate wife
  • Jerry on the Dinah Shore show explaining to a police sketch artist what God looks like

Must See?
No; this well-meaning but strained comedy is only for certain tastes.


One thought on “Oh, God! (1977)

  1. First viewing. A once-must – as a film that is simply good for the soul. I avoided it for a long time (until now, really) because I sort of anticipated complete hokum. On seeing the film, I didn’t find any hokum.

    As per my post in ‘Film Junkie’ (fb):

    “What about that hoo-hah with The Devil awhile ago from that movie? Nobody had any trouble believing that The Devil took over and existed in a little girl. All she had to do was wet the rug, fill up on pea soup – and everybody believed it.”

    ‘Oh, God!’ [film link in comments]: Carl Reiner’s 1977 comedy (which I had never seen) now seems to be something of a forgotten film. On its release, it was received quite well by critics and audiences, making a number of ’10 Best’ lists and about $50 million in domestic box office. Larry Gelbart (who later received the main credit for writing ‘Tootsie’) adapted a novel by Avery Corman (author of ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’) and got himself an Oscar nom. Reiner brought together a fine cast of supporting players to back-up George Burns (totally laid-back as God) and John Denver and Teri Garr in the lead roles. The story couldn’t be simpler: God appears to ‘a good man’ (Denver) and asks him to tell the world to shape up – mainly by being kind to each other. The film itself is surprisingly gentle and its humor is lightweight. But Reiner takes it all very seriously and instructed his cast to deliver the film’s message with complete conviction. The idea, I think, was not so much to get viewers to believe in God but, instead, to encourage them to look in their hearts to review what’s going on in there. I found it refreshing that the film’s jokes aren’t embarrassing or over-reaching. There’s no proselytizing here – just a warm reminder that we can all do better as humans (which is undeniable, whether you believe in God or not).

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