1 item from 1996
Santa Claus, the Clintons' cat, the Easter Bunny and, most optimistically, God are the entities that people write letters to and whose missives end up in the dead-letter section of the post office.
In this Capraesque comedy, Greg Kinnear stars as a guardian angel-type postal employee who tries to answer the "Dear God" letters. It's warm and cozy, and Paramount should win over mainstream hearts with this sweet holiday-set comedy. But it will need to deliver an astute marketing campaign to attract viewers amid the mass of bigger star vehicles. Down the line, "Dear God" would make a perfect cable offering, say, for the Family Channel.
Since George Burns is no longer with us, God himself does not make a personal appearance in this Garry Marshall-directed comedy, which focuses on a breezy con man named Tom Turner (Kinnear). Tom is into petty street scams, ostensibly to pay off his gambling debts. During the Hollywood Christmas Parade he's busted and the judge gives him two options: get a job or go to jail. It's a toughie for Tom, but he lands at the post office, consigned to the dead-letter section. It's a mysterious underground-type place where his co-workers are a colorful and somewhat crazed batch of slackers. Between goofing off, their days are filled with tossing dead letters into bins, and Tom gets assigned the "God" bin.
Essentially, screenwriters Warren Leight and Ed Kaplan's scenario is a modern-day parable of the biblical story of doubting Thomas. In this case, the tale is adeptly transposed to a reluctant postal worker and skeptic of human nature, Tom. Down in that dreary mailroom Tom undergoes an epiphany, overcome by charitable and humane urges. Not surprisingly, it's not an easy transposition and Tom's new outlook is a source of conflict. Coupling an absurdist's sensibility with a humanitarian sensitivity, the screenwriters have spun a breezy yet touching tale. Unfortunately, the narrative is also somewhat diffuse and scattered in its overly busy subplotting. However, director Garry Marshall's savvy dexterity, mixing slapstick with pathos, keeps things at a merry pace. Admittedly, things do get somewhat corny and are clearly borrowed from previous Capra heartwarmers, but these transgressions are minor and don't detract from the film's overall uplifting effect.
Kinnear is strong as the lead, both slippery and solid, while Tim Conway stands out as a burned-out postal employee. In a brief appearance, Nancy Marchand is perfect as a comic foil, a stern, fair-minded judge whose Solomon-like wisdom is put to the test. Director Marshall makes an appearance as the irate postmaster general; as he has done with other similar cameo roles, Marshall is once again highly entertaining as a frenzied and somewhat demented authority figure.
In association with Rysher Entertainment
A Steve Tisch production
A Garry Marshall film
Producer Steve Tisch
Director Garry Marshall
Screenwriters Warren Leight, Ed Kaplan
Executive producer Mario Iscovich
Director of photography Charles Minsky
Production designer Albert Brenner
Editor Debra Neil-Fisher
Music Jeremy Lubbock, James Patrick Dunne
Casting Carrie Frazier
Co-producers Ellen H. Schwartz, Kearie Peak
Associate producers Angel Pine,
Sound mixer James Webb Jr.
Costume designers Robin Borman,
Lynda Foote, Annie Culotta
Tom Turner Greg Kinnear
Rebecca Frazen Laurie Metcalf
Gloria McKinney Maria Pitillo
Herman Dooly Tim Conway
Vladek Vidov Hector Elizondo
Handsome Jon Seda
Idris Abraham Roscoe Lee Browne
Lucille Anna Maria Horsford
Whispering Wendy Kathleen Marshall
Running time -- 110 minutes
MPAA rating: PG
1 item from 1996
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