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Heaven Can Wait (1978)


Released:  Wednesday, June 28, 1978  
Length:  101 minutes
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Rating: Heaven Can Wait is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of AmericaSome material may not be suitable for children.

Heaven Can Wait Synopsis

Heaven Can Wait © Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

Heaven Can Wait is a romantic fantasy about Joe Pendleton (Warren Beatty), a Los Angeles Rams quarterback who is accidentally summoned to Heaven by an overly zealous celestial escort. Pendleton is returned to earth in the body of another man, who is a corporate giant. While practicing to once again play for the Rams, Pendleton must escape attempts on his life while romantically pursuing a beautiful Englishwoman (Julie Christie) who protests the destruction caused to her village by one of his many corporations.

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Heaven Can Wait images are © Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

Heaven Can Wait Blu-ray Review

Heaven Can Wait Blu-ray Review

For over twenty-five years, Harry Segall was a playwright, screenwriter, and television writer.  His play entitled Heaven Can Wait was turned into the 1941 film called Here Comes Mr. Jordan which earned Segall the Academy Award for Best Original Story. Thirty-seven years later, Actor Warren Beatty (Bonnie and Clyde) co-wrote, co-directed, produced, and starred in a remake of the play using the same title.  The movie was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture but it only took home one the award for Best Art Direction/Set Direction. Interestingly, instead of waiting 2 years for the forty-fifth anniversary of the movie, Paramount Pictures has released it now on Blu-ray.  Does that mean a possible 4K version is coming in two years?

An injured pro football player for the Los Angeles Rams, Joe Pendleton (Beatty) has worked hard to get back in shape and prove he can lead the team to a Superbowl win.  However, while out riding his bike he goes through a tunnel, and it is implied that he was killed by a truck driver.  Once at the waystation to board the transport to Heaven it is revealed that his Guardian Angel was a little overzealous and took Joe’s soul too soon.  Unfortunately, since his body was cremated, it wasn’t possible to bring him back as himself so, in an unorthodox move, they find him a temporary body, Multimillionaire industrialist, Leo Farnsworth, who was ruthless and made numerous enemies.

At the time of its release, the film had a somewhat unique and original plot while remaining a well-done Rom-Com.  Beatty’s determined yet charming Joe is formidable, naïve, and optimistic all at the same time.  Farnsworth’s wife, Julia (Dyan Cannon; Bob & Carol & Ted and Alice), and her lover, Farnsworth’s Assistant, Tony Abbott (Charles Grodin; Beethoven) add some comic relief, as they try numerous methods to kill Leo, all of which are unsuccessful (Think…Pink Panther).  The rest of the cast is made up of successful actors from the ‘60s and ‘70s and each one brings a little quirkiness to their characters.

It is always a difficult task to take an older film and update the video and audio quality because the original master doesn’t have the same technology as is used today.  However, Paramount does an admirable job of cleaning up the Master and transferring it to 1080p resolution.  There is still some graininess and even color correction can’t completely lighten up the background but overall, the video is clean, and details look sharp.

From the opening moments, the Dolby TrueHD 2.0 makes itself obvious as the soundtrack, dialogue and effects are all housed on the upfront speakers in clearly stereo format.  While the elements that make up the audio are crisp, they obviously don’t have much depth, which is especially missing with the crown noise in the Superbowl scenes.

The Heaven Can Wait Blu-ray combo pack has the Blu-ray disc and digital download but no other supplements at all, which, frankly, is somewhat surprising.  As Beatty was so involved with this movie from start to finish, you would think he would sit down and discuss some of the aspects and difficulties of filming and what he would do differently if he was making the film with today’s technology.

Looking back at 1978, the top film of the year was Grease, and frankly, while Heaven Can Wait is a pretty good and entertaining movie, it is not nearly as timeless and enduring as the former film.  However, Warren Beatty should be commended for ambitiously wearing four different hats on this movie and the result is a solid and well-made film.

If you have never seen Heaven Can Wait, you should, and this Blu-ray disc is obviously the best quality option available.

Grade: B


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