Tuesday, September 23, 2008


The other night Beefcake and I watched Heaven Can Wait. Now I believe I saw this movie once as a young child, but it was so long ago that I didn't remember it very well at all.

Of course it stars Warren Beatty as a professional football player who is accidentally taken out of his body before he's supposed to be dead, then is temporarily put in another man's body until he can find an athletic body to move to permanently so he can resume his football career. Meanwhile James Mason stands around talking like James Mason.

This movie had its moments. I mean, who doesn't love Warren Beatty on screen? But there are some weird plot issues in this film where people behave in a way that is completely contrary to any reasonable human behavior.

I could get beyond that, though, if it weren't for one gaping issue that I couldn't ignore. Not once do we actually see the body he's been put into. We get a glimpse of the guy's arm while he's lying in the bath tub but we never actually see the body through anyone else's eyes.

So when Joe's lady love says she sees into his eyes all we see is Warren Beatty, except we know that's not what she's seeing. I want to know if she sees a big fat guy or what. And he keeps talking about how out of shape his body is, but seems to think he can get back into shape, but all we see is Warren Beatty in the same shape the whole movie. He doesn't see himself in the mirror, we never see him from anyone else's perspective, he doesn't see any pictures or anything. And it's annoying as hell.

I mean, the story is all about how he's in the wrong body but we never actually see the wrong body. How does that make any sense at all?

I can't think of any reason why you wouldn't at least get a glimpse of what he really looks like except for one thing - ego. Warren Beatty directed the film and I'm guessing he didn't want to share any screen time with another man pretending to be his character, even long enough to look at himself in the mirror.

Although Down to Earth was not the world's greatest remake, at least the Chris Rock version had the awareness to show the body his character was in. Hell, they used the old fat white guy's appearance for comedic purposes.

Ego can ruin even the best high concept comedy.


  1. Anonymous12:02 AM

    Sigh (and rolling eyes). Yes, ego, that's the reason. Never mind that Beatty never even had the intention to play the lead: he had set up the movie with Muhammad Ali as the main character, a boxer, like in the original movie. Dates had been set with the studio, but Ali had scheduling problems so at the last minute the character was re-written as a football player and Beatty jumped in. In the original, by the way, there also IS NOT a view of the "other" body, but the lead actor's.

  2. Clearly you know more about this film than I do, so good on you.

    Maybe it's not ego, then. I couldn't honestly think of a reason other than ego of why the director would not let another actor at least take a tiny bit of his burden on set, particularly since it would have helped the story.

    What they did in the original is irrelevant. Showing the body would have made it a stronger film.

  3. Anonymous12:53 AM

    Yeah, I watched it about a month ago and wondered the same thing. My thought process was that it would have been a bit Quantum Leap, but of course it was years before Quantum Leap. But it would have been like having the whole five years of that show and never seeing the bodies that Sam leaps into. Without that outside perspective it becomes a bit one-dimensional.
    You never actually got the sense that Beatty's character was struggling to get fit because all you see is Warren Beatty pushing weights and dragging his staff around the garden. I think a quick mirror scene would have helped establish this; it's not even like they would have to sync Beatty with the actor playing the body. A simple cut-to of the body actor in the mirror would have given us an idea. My two cents.

  4. Hmm, have to disagree with you on this . . . the film and the story was about one guy, Joe Pendelton, and how he got taken before his time and lost his chance to play in the superbowl, his destiny . . . it's really about one guy, the film is nearly all through his POV, so there's no real reason for us to see the other guys (though I thought we saw the last quarterback whom Joe replaced, but I could be wrong) . . . regardless, the film is Joe, he is our window, and the character's reaction to him acting in a way they find unusual (I love, for example, Joe barging in on his "wife" and her lover and saying calmly, "Hey, I don't love you, you don't love me, what say we get a divorce?", that's a great moment.

    The story isn't about the other guys who died, but about a guy who died but wasn't supposed to.

    Hence, we stay with Joe. It's a choice and in my opinion, a much stronger choice than showing the guys who died. As DOWN TO EARTH showed, which was a far weaker film in many ways.

    HEAVEN CAN WAIT is also a remake, now that I think about it, about a film about a boxer, which is why Beatty developed it for Ali, who ultimately passed.

    Honestly, I think you're taking a leap to say that this choice was made for ego . . . I mean, most actor-writer-directors have egos, from Welles to Costner and Redford and Olivier . . . but that doesn't mean the choice was made just to keep his face onscreen and not share it with others. Beatty done enough work elsewhere (I'm thinking REDS) that suggests that his ego isn't so fragile as to not be able to share a screen with someone else.

    Just my opinion, of course.

  5. i saw that movie on AMC in the 90s and i thought it was an okay film. that's all i can say.

  6. I've never seen HERE COMES MR. JORDAN, so I can't comment on that (there's an earlier HEAVEN CAN WAIT too, but no relation--wasn't this a plot point in the Bruce Willis movie HOSTAGE?).

    I think I'd agree that it doesn't really matter what the other guy looks like and I always liked how it was left totally to our imagination--the movie just disregards his appearance as irrelevant. But even though I'm a big fan of Beatty as actor and director, HEAVEN's never been a favorite of mine (and it was a massive hit at the time, with multiple Oscar nominations). His ego and vanity has certainly been well-documented and this has always seemed like one of those occasions when he was trying to make a flat-out big commercial movie which capitalized on himself as a movie star. Maybe that's why it's less interesting to me than something like SHAMPOO, REDS or BULWORTH. I think I even like ISHTAR better, but I'm an admitted big fan of that one (Buck Henry co-directed HEAVEN, by the way).

  7. Anonymous2:33 PM

    The MAIN reason why Beatty decided to do Heaven Can Wait was because he'd been writing the movie Reds since the mid sixties: a movie about the only American (communist) buried in the Kremlin. He figured that, in order to get ANY studio to make a movie on such an unpopular subject, he'd better have a commercial hit in his pocket. So he first did Heaven Can Wait, which became a commercial success and then it was a lot easier (still not easy, but enough to give him leverage) to get his dream project made. You can hear it "from the horse's mouth" on the 25th anniversary edition DVD of "Reds".


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