OH, GOD! (1977)

OH, GOD! poster artwork

JOHN DENVER.....Jerry Landers
TERI GARR.....Bobbie Landers
PAUL SORVINO.....Reverend Willie Williams

Directed by CARL REINER


The assistant manager of a Los Angeles Food World supermarket has a tough problem, something a little bit more serious than being caught squeezing the Charmin. The assistant manager (John Denver) has received a mysterious note that says, "God grants you an interview tomorrow at 11 a.m., in Room 2700, 1600 N. Hope St."

Denver considers the note a prank by his friend Artie, so he throws it away. But it reappears. So he rips the note up. But it reappears. So he goes to 1600 N. Hope St.

To make a lovely story short, we soon see John Denver sitting in an all-white room facing a small white speaker resting on a small white end table. "Don't smoke," says a disembodied male voice that claims to be the voice of God. "Tobacco is one of my big mistakes."

What?! Denver can't believe his ears. A voice that claims to be God's has just said that God is fallible. The contradictions prove to be both mind-boggling and irresistible. Denver decides to play along by asking if God has made any other mistakes.

"Ostriches," comes the reply. "Silly looking things. And avocados. I made the pit too big."

John Denver is shocked, and the audience for Oh, God!, a wonderful new comedy, is laughing. Loudly.

In short order, God materializes in the form of George Burns wearing assorted leisure outfits. He tells John Denver that he wants him to spread the word that God exists, that he's upset that things aren't working out well on Earth, and that mankind has the power to make the world a beautiful place. "It's up to you," Burns says. "I gave you everything you need."

Burns-as-God appears many times in the film, each time to help Denver spread the word to his doubting wife, to the doubting media, and to the doubting clergy. Wait till you see how the 10 o'clock news treats the story.

But to call Oh, God! a comedy is to mislabel it, especially if that conjures up images of a ribald Mel Brooks film. Oh, God! is a gentle, often touching comedy. It does not deserve to arouse the ire of religious persons offended by human representation of their deity. If those people skip the picture, they will miss a terrific movie, one with the most humanistic values.

Saying all that, though, may be unfair to those now worried that Oh, God! is some kind of religious revival meeting. If people looking for Saturday night entertainment---and not a Sunday morning sermon---skip the picture, they will miss a tenderly funny flick that offers more pleasure than preachment.

Though it might be blasphemous to say Burns is perfect for the role of God, that's the truth. In fact it's hard to imagine another actor playing the part as well. An Academy Award two years ago (for The Sunshine Boys) and now a credible role as no less than God---Burns could get a swelled head.

Burns is perfect for the role because of his innate warmth and because he plays his part matter-of-factly, without solemnity or foolishness. He neither reads his lines with a booming Charlton Heston-like voice, nor trivializes the role by rattling off its jokes as if he were performing a standup comedy routine. Burns underplays the part, thus letting its natural humor blossom.

Now you might be wondering---and John Denver does ask---why God has taken a human form. Burns explains that he considers that the best way to communicate with a human. And why doesn't he spread his word himself instead of relying on a lowly supermarket assistant manager? "There would be mass confusion," Burns says. "And besides," he adds with a smile, "I like to work with one savior at a time."

Oh, God! ends the September movie drought with great fun and warmth. It's movie manna from...well, you know where.

Review 1977 THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE. All Rights Reserved.

Poster artwork 1977 WARNER BROTHERS. All Rights Reserved.

Title and logo designed by Karen Rappaport

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