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Warren Beatty, Buck Henry
Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, James Mason
Writing Credits:
Elaine May, Warren Beatty

Accidentally taken away from his body before he was meant to die, NFL quarterback Joe Pendleton returns to life in the body of a recently murdered millionaire.

Rated PG.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1/16X9
English Dolby 5.1
French Dolby 1.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 101 min.
Price: $9.98
Release Date: 7/27/1999

• Trailer


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Heaven Can Wait (1978)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 17, 2021)

1978’s Heaven Can Wait became one of the year’s biggest hits. It brings us a remake of 1941’s Here Comes Mr. Jordan.

Joe Pendleton (Warren Beatty) plays quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams. This takes a turn when he dies in a traffic accident.

However, it turns out his soul shouldn’t have been “taken” so soon, so he convinces “heavenly way station” man-in-charge Mr. Jordan (James Mason) to give him another shot on Earth. Because Joe’s corpse has already been cremated, he winds up in the body of millionaire industrialist Leo Farnsworth, a recently-deceased man, and this sends him on a series of adventures.

Because Jordan already offered a high-quality movie, Wait lacked much room to improve on its predecessor. This means that while the remake doesn’t turn into anything remarkable, it brings a likeable mix of comedy and romance.

I never thought Beatty was a great actor, and Wait demonstrates his limitations, especially in terms of the role’s dramatic elements. However, he seems charming and engaging enough to carry the role.

Wait doesn’t ask much of Beatty other than to seem earnest and slightly eccentric. Beatty manages these aspects of the part just fine.

Wisely, Beatty surrounds himself with a top-notch supporting cast. In addition to Mason, we find talents like Buck Henry, Charles Grodin, Julie Christie, Dyan Cannon and Jack Warden, among others.

With a roster like that, Beatty could totally flop and the movie would still work. I can’t claim any of the actors do any heavy lifting but they add verve to the proceedings.

Co-directed by Henry and Beatty – from a script by Beatty and Elaine May - Wait - manages just enough quirkiness to work. It stays sincere much of the time, but it veers into a little bit of appropriate wackiness for comedic flavor.

43 years after its release, Heaven Can Wait holds up well. Nothing about it screams “classic” but the film still offers an entertaining comedy/fantasy.

The DVD Grades: Picture D+/ Audio C+/ Bonus D-

Heaven Can Wait appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Dated and dire, this became a wholly problematic presentation.

Close-ups tended to show passable definition, but anything wider became soft and indistinct. Edge haloes made this factor worse, so the movie tended to look iffy and fuzzy.

Mild signs of jagged edges and moiré effects materialized, and the film suffered from digital noise. Print flaws became a persistent presence, as the movie showed specks, marks, and debris through much of its running time.

Colors looked bland and muddy. Hues lacked any form of vivacity and came across as dull and heavy.

Blacks felt inky and dense, while shadows looked too dark and thick. This ancient DVD badly could use an update.

Though superior, the film’s Dolby monaural soundtrack lacked much pizzazz. Speech felt perfectly intelligible and lacked edginess, though the lines could seem a bit flat.

Music lacked much range but the score seemed acceptably reproduced. Given the movie’s character orientation, effects didn’t get much to do, but they remained moderately accurate and free from distortion. This became a wholly adequate soundtrack.

The DVD includes the film’s trailer and no other extras.

As a remake of a classic, Heaven Can Wait reinvents no wheels. Nonetheless, it creates a charming, warm mix of fantasy, comedy and romance. The DVD offers weak picture, acceptable audio and virtually no bonus features. While I like the movie, the DVD stinks.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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