It’s nice to break things up with an enjoyable and light comedy about death.
Here’s one of those stories that has, almost inexplicably (like A Star is Born) been repeatedly remade by Hollywood over the years. This is, of course, the first adaptation of the stage play Heaven Can Wait. The movie, about a boxer who is whisked from his earthly body too soon in an apparent plan crash by an over-protective spirit and needs to find a way back into his life, doesn’t really seem like the kind of story that would light the imaginations of enough people in Hollywood to want to remake it again and again, but here we are, only a few years out from Chris Rock’s version.
Anyway, the movie’s a fun interplay of mistaken identity, farce, and just enough genuine emotion towards the end to come together and work quite well. The conflict within out main character’s (Joe’s) head about whether to offer a quick hand to help someone by taking possession of a rich dead man’s body or find the perfect body to continue his boxing career carries a lot of the comedy through the first half or so of the film. There’s also his complete disregard for convention once Joe becomes this rich financier (Farnsworth) and his flippant attitude to things people around him consider important (he’s got training to be done). Of course, his sudden infatuation with a pretty girl (Bette), whom he upends financial convention for, helps things along nicely.
The only reason I didn’t really love the movie was because of its ending. In the final twenty minutes, there’s a sudden emphasis on the current heavyweight boxing champion (Murdock) and some similarities of mind that he and our main character possess. Since we’ve never seen Murdock before (outside of a picture in a newspaper), we don’t know him, and both his loss of life and the emotional kick from Mr. Jordan saying that Joe will fit well with him ends up falling flat. Joe loses his personality and becomes Murdock (which is an odd choice unto itself), and we do get redeemed with a nice moment between Murdock and Better as they see something in each other that neither can explain.
Aside from some holes created in its final act, though, the movie really is an amusing fantastical farce with witty performances from both Robert Montgomery and Claude Raines (as the titular character, Mr. Jordan). I probably see too much in those issues at the end that most won’t notice, though. That’s because I’m picky and unreasonable.
Netflix Rating: 4/5
Quality Rating: 3/4