Heaven Can Wait (1978) Poster

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Football Fairy Tale
k roo26 April 2002
I too was surprised that this film received a not-much-better than average rating. I am not a huge fan of Beatty, but I think he plays his role in this movie perfectly, running rampant through the lives of his unfaithful wife and private secretary (Charles Grodin couldn't be better), and his former coach. Joe Pendleton is so sweet and earnest that he deserve a happy, fairy-tale ending. I don't think the script ever descends into sappiness and there is a fine ensemble cast. I laugh out loud still, even though I have seen the movie several times, and I still get a bit teary-eyed at the end. This film deserves better!
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6.8 User Rating? Huh?
abooboo-228 September 1999
Warning: Spoilers
I just about fell out of my chair when I saw that this film only got a 6.8. This is a light entertainment classic and Beatty has never been better suited for a role. The dream supporting cast includes Dyan Cannon, Jack Warden, James Mason, Buck Henry, Charles Grodin, Vincent Gardenia ... and all are at the top of their game. Julie Christie's character (as the love interest) seems, at first glance, to be a bit underwritten, but her scenes with Beatty linger in the memory - especially the ending where Beatty, in a new body with his memory wiped out, sees this beautiful woman in the bowels of a deserted football stadium and struggles to remember what she meant to him.

Growing up, I seem to recall that CBS or some major network used to show this once every year and it was hyped as a big event (this was just before the explosion of cable). I never got tired of watching it each year and it still holds up remarkably well.
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Classic-Style Old-Fashioned Fantasy Film-making Reminiscent of the 1940's and 1950's
classicalsteve13 February 2010
Although made in the very late 1970's, "Heaven Can Wait" is really a throwback to a bygone era of fantasy film-making. Hollywood offerings such as "The Bishop's Wife" (where Carey Grant plays an angel), "Angels in the Outfield", "It's a Wonderful Life", and "Here Comes Mr. Jordan" (which is actually the inspiration behind "Heaven Can Wait") were innocent 100-minute escapist fair whose only mission was to entertain. Some modern offerings include "Mr Destiny", "Maid to Order", and the TV shows "The Flying Nun" and "Touched by an Angel". None of these kinds of films have much in the way of cutting social commentary or even ground-breaking cinematic techniques. However, their entertainment value is very high, being nothing but. "Heaven Can Wait" is this kind of a movie, maybe the perfect "chick flick" as it combines fantasy, football and even a little love story.

The story is relatively simple: Joe Pendleton (Warren Beatty), a quarterback in the twilight of his career, feels destined to make it to the Superbowl. The LA Rams, his team, are in the playoffs. One day during early-morning training after consuming his liver-and-whey shake, he bicycles into a tunnel where two large vehicles taking both lanes are charging from the other direction of the tunnel. Looks like Pendleton will be playing in a Superbowl coached by Vince Lombardi with George "The Gipper" Gipp as one of his teammates. The next thing he knows, he's jogging among clouds with an escort (played by writer-director Buck Henry who also played the hotel attendant in "The Graduate") in a suit and tie trying to get him to stop running around. Pendleton is still in his athletic clothes sporting a soprano saxophone and doing push-ups among the fluffy billows. He doesn't quite realize he's died. Or has he? Turns out the escort made a mistake: Pendleton would have survived, perhaps avoided, the collision, but the escort nabbed him from his body before the resolution of the event, relying on "probability and outcome", a recurring theme of the movie. Pendleton was not due for many decades.

His case is taken up by Mr Jordan (James Mason in one of his later roles) a kind of heavenly supervisor who apparently coordinates peoples' souls. Realizing the mistake, Jordan takes Pendleton back to earth to find him a new body so he can live out the rest of his life as he was meant to. The only one available is the body of millionaire Leo Farnsworth who has just been murdered care of his estranged wife and personal assistant, played brilliantly by Dyan Cannon and Charles Grodin. One of the best scenes is when Pendleton reappears as Farnsworth, and Cannon nearly has a conniption. Pendleton, now as stuffy gazillionaire Farnsworth, must forge a way to get back to the Rams in time for the Superbowl.

The aspect that saves this film from falling too far into sentimental gush or absolute unbelievability is the quality of the acting of the leads (particularly Warren Beatty, Charles Grodin, Dyan Cannon, Julie Christie, James Mason, and Jack Warden as Max, the Rams' trainer) coupled with a fine screenplay. Everything is believable. Certainly the whole concept is just about as far-fetched as the Land of Oz, but you never contemplate that possibility for a moment. For some reason, everything works, and you run with it, not unlike "It's a Wonderful Life". As silly and fantastical as it is, the trip is well worth it.
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A very classy movie
MyDarkStar5 December 2001
I couldn't think of any other way to describe it in the summary - so I used the word "classy". That's right, classy. It probably stems from the fact that the movie is done in such good taste - very appealing and witty humor.

The entire cast does an absolutely perfect job in this movie. From Warren Beatty, to James Mason (is James Mason physically capable of putting in a bad performance ? ), to Buck Henry, to Jack Warden.

Perhaps the two best performances are Charles Grodin (the slimy personal assistant to Leo Farnsworth),and Dyan Cannon as the psycho Julia Farnsworth. They are both brilliant in their roles.

Very worth watching. Also worth more than its IMDB 6.9 rating.
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Thoroughly charming afterlife comedy
robb_7726 February 2008
After appearing the rare Mike Nichols misstep THE FORTUNE (1975), it took Beatty three long years to return to the screen with the genteel comedy/fantasy HEAVEN CAN WAIT (1978). In addition to essaying the lead role, Beatty also made his debut in the director's chair, with the assistance of legendary comedy writer Buck Henry (who also plays a supporting role in the film). A remake of 1941 semi-classic HERE COMES MR. JORDAN, HEAVEN CAN WAIT may not surpass the delightful whimsy of the original classic, but it emerges as somewhat of a modern classic in it's own right. The film was an instant hit with both critics and audiences, was nominated for an astounding 9 Oscars including "Best Picture," and remains a magical film that is almost impossible not to love.

Beatty not only proves himself to be a perfectly competent film director, and the picture also provides the star with one of his best roles as an actor. Beatty's good-natured football player Joe is the exact type of lovable stud that you cannot help but fall for. The film's screenplay takes Joe from earth to heaven and to back to earth again through an assortment of various bodies, and Beatty's easygoing charisma holds it all together and keeps viewers involved in the story and fixated on the screen. This is a star performance if there ever was one, and Beatty has rarely been more likable.

The rest of the cast is particularly winning. The still silver-tongued James Mason (in a part originally offered to the retired Cary Grant) as the heavenly Mr. Jordan and the endearing gruff Jack Warden are perfect as father figure-types for Beatty's Joe, and Charles Grodin and Dyan Cannon are absolutely terrific as the film's pair of villains. The only performer missing the boat is a blah Julie Christie, who is pleasant but unconvincing in the sadly underwritten role of the ecologist love interest of the body Beatty has temporarily inherited. It seems as though the creators thought dressing Christie in frumpy wardrobe and frizzy hairstyle was enough to give the character depth, but all they succeeded in was making a natural beauty look rather hideous.

The film is a joyous, comedic piece of whimsy that manages to incorporate slapstick comedy, romance, fantasy, and even an underdog sports story without ever feeling bloated or disjointed. The true emotional highpoint comes with Mr. Jordan's farewell to Joe, as well as Max failing to recognize him in his new body. The rather shallow development of Christie's character leaves the film's THE WAY WE WERE-like finale ringing a bit hollow, but it's still an effectively bittersweet coda nonetheless. This film launched a major revival of whimsical comedies that remained popular until the late-eighties, and it easily remains the best effort of this revival.
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A good comedy
mm-3916 May 2003
This film is entertaining. I like Warren in this film, and the script is crazy enough that it works. There is a message about hope in this film, and we all need hope. Some parts of the film can be so funny, I like how they end it. This film ties all the lose ends up nicely. I remember the 78 and 79 Rams those were pretty good teams. 7 or 8 out of ten.
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Come on guys!
Stu-4219 January 1999
6.9 is not a terrible score on here, but for a movie of this quality it is a shame. I very rarely have given a film a 9 and it is very unusual for me to give a higher than average score. This was my favorite movie when I was a kid and when I saw it again recently I was just as impressed as an adult. The cast was excellent and they managed to evoke much emotion out of a fairy tale like story. One of the few remakes worthy of discussion. I would consider this a must see for anyone who has any kind of feelings whatsoever.
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1978 was a heavenly summer from Paramount.
mark.waltz5 June 2015
Warning: Spoilers
The Paramount mountain was certainly busy and flowing with cash in the late spring-summer months of 1978 with three box-office smashes: The Oscar Nominated Best Film "Heaven Can Wait", the screwball comedy "Foul Play" ("Kojak, Bang Bang!") and the musical blockbuster "Grease". I saw each of these films more than once during that summer, a transition time for me, and the memories come flooding back each time I see even a movie still or quick clip from any of those films. "Heaven Can Wait" is an excellent remake of an equally excellent 1940's classic, "Here Comes Mr. Jordan", changing the dead character from boxer to football player but pretty much keeping everything else the same.

Robert Montgomery's boxer was killed in an airplane crash, coming back to earth due to the fact that an overzealous angel took him before waiting for the outcome. Warren Beatty's football player is bicycling through the Hollywood Hills and killed by speeding automobiles going through a tunnel. Escorted into heaven's waiting station by the same overzealous angel (Buck Henry), he insists that he doesn't belong there. Head angel Mr. Jordan (James Mason) discovers that indeed, he was supposed to arrive years later, and now they must find another body for him to return to earth in. More concerned with getting to the super bowl, Beatty turns down the variety of bodies he is given, and finally settles for a murdered millionaire whose wife (a hysterically funny Dyan Cannon) and assistant (Charles Grodin) conspired against. Now Beatty must not only get himself ready for the superbowl, he must also prevent his second demise which he tries with heavenly guidance.

Julie Christie, Beatty's oft 1970's co-star, gives a light-hearted performance as a British activist out to prevent a nuclear plant from being put into her home town. Of course, that becomes a major plot point to get them together romantically and gives Beatty something more to do than just turn millionaire Farnsworth's mansion into a football training camp. In great support, there's Jack Warden as Beatty's former coach stumped by his "return", Arthur Malet and Joseph Maher as eccentric servants (having an amusing conversation concerning Beatty's constant meeting with the invisible angel James Mason in a closet) and Vincent Gardenia as the police investigator who exposes the crimes at Farnsworth Mansion.

A great screenplay by Beatty, Elaine May and Robert Towne makes this delightful fantasy flow with witty dialog, and the co-direction by Beatty and Buck Henry keeps things at a light-hearted pace. This is a film definitely worth sharing with family, and one you will want to see again and again.
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A delightful film.
karen-12816 April 2001
Rent this movie with someone you love- it's the one that started it all. (Even thought it's a remake, itself) Buck Henry did a fabulous job with this film. He also wrote The Graduate, by the way, and there are gentle subversive moments in this film as well. I won't spoil them for you, just watch for yourself. Warren Beaty has never been so charming, and that's saying a lot, and Jack Warden just about walks away with the film. Forget GHOST, go right to HEAVEN CAN WAIT. You won't be sorry.
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a romantic classic.
triple815 February 2004
I remember as a kid, I loved this movie. I had seen it in the theatre and liked it so much I saw it again! I think the appeal here is the same as in many of these types of films-it's a sweet whimsical fairytale of a movie that is pure entertainment but manages to be lovely without being corny at the same time.

There aren't to many movies like this around now. Of coarse, not having seen this since I was a child who knows whether I'd still be such a fan but at that time, I wept buckets and since it was one of the first films that I saw that stuck with me, I have fond memories of it.

People shouldn't put this movie down for realism or not having realism etc. It's a fantasy type movie. It's the type of movie you know your wtavhing a movie while you watch it but you cry anyway! I don't think this movie can be dismissed as being lightweight or unimportant. Where would film be without romance? This is up there in that category and many I know feel the same. It's a breath of fresh air and should be seen by anyone who likes warm sentimental (yeah OK sappy!!) movies!
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Los Angeles: The City of Angels...And at One Time Rams.
tfrizzell24 September 2003
Enjoyable "It's a Wonderful Life"-styled remake of "Here Comes Mr. Jordan", a memorable and sometimes forgotten production from 1941. An over-zealous angel (Buck Henry) takes the quarterback of the Los Angeles Rams (Oscar-nominee Warren Beatty) before his time. Naturally the body is cremated and Henry has to find Beatty another one. Beatty is then re-incarnated as a recently murdered billionaire. This development confuses the billionaire's two-timing wife (Oscar-nominee Dyan Cannon) and accountant (Charles Grodin, also Cannon's lover). Beatty promptly purchases his former team and makes himself the quarterback with aspirations of leading his club to the Super Bowl and winning it. Also along for the ride is the love interest (the always excellent Julie Christie) and the hard-nosed head trainer (priceless Oscar-nominee Jack Warden). "Heaven Can Wait" is a film that teaches about love, compassion, friendship and good moral values. Co-writer/co-director Beatty (nominated in both categories) is the primary catalyst here. His ability as a film-maker raises the movie to a near classic level. Admittedly the production never does quite reach the greatness of films of the type from the 1940s, but still ends up being one of the major winners from the 1970s. Co-star Henry shared a directing nomination with Beatty. Is it just me or do you miss having the Rams in Los Angeles? 4.5 out of 5 stars.
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A well done update of "Here Comes Mr. Jordan"
sme_no_densetsu7 November 2017
"Heaven Can Wait" is a remake of the 1941 fantasy/comedy classic "Here Comes Mr. Jordan", starring Robert Montgomery as pugilist Joe Pendleton along with Claude Rains as the titular Mr. Jordan. This time around, Warren Beatty takes on the Joe Pendleton role, now a Los Angeles Rams quarterback instead of a boxer.

The story is put in motion when Pendleton is yanked out of his body by an overzealous angel before he's meant to die. By the time the error is discovered it's too late for Pendleton to be placed back into his own body so he must accept an alternate host among individuals who are about to die. When he does finally settle on a body he quickly resumes his goal of attempting to become the starting quarterback for the Rams but he must also contend with his predecessor's murderous wife and shady business dealings.

Being pretty faithfully based on "Here Comes Mr. Jordan", it's no surprise that "Heaven Can Wait" has a somewhat old-fashioned feel. However, that's a good thing. The clever plot of the original was kept mostly intact while bringing the characters and the comedy up to date. Overall, I find the remake to be funnier and just different enough from the original to keep it fresh. I still give the original a slight edge in narrative construction, though.

The cast of the original made for a high standard to match but I think that the remake met and possibly even exceeded it. Beatty made an engaging lead of a totally different sort than Robert Montgomery and being teamed with Julie Christie again was the icing on the cake. The supporting cast was also superb with multiple standouts including James Mason, Jack Warden, Charles Grodin, Dyan Cannon & Buck Henry.

Lavished with nine Oscar nominations, "Heaven Can Wait" is a movie that shows attention to detail in all areas. In the end, the film's only Oscar win was for art direction/set decoration, though the tight writing and jaunty musical score could have just as easily been honoured as well (not to mention one or more of the actors).

I'm a bit surprised at the movie's somewhat middling rating on this site but I suspect that's probably because it represents a throwback to an earlier era of film-making. If that sounds appealing to you, by all means check this movie out.
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Yes, I'd love to have coffee with you.
DQGladstone12 October 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This is a charm film, seeming to be the place where Warren Beatty hit his charm peak, learned how it was done and did it perfectly.

Perfectly cast down to the servants, this film has some of the best scenes, with Buck Henry and James Mason in the closet ("Tell them I'm sorry, thank them"), the falling bed sequence, the servants on the staircase, Warren running around the house, the cigarlighting "I'm Joe Pendleton" scene, the hats, "have we met?" and,of course, the classic "let's be the goodguy company, the popular players." I could go on.

At the end, where Julie Christie is realizing that Tom is Joe, her SKIN changes color. She FLUSHES.

When Joe tells Buck Henry, "you're bad news", when Joe tells Mr. Jordan, "I love her, Mr. Jordan".

"Can't something be legal and still be wrong?" A maid comes out on the croquet lawn with the badly hit ball!

I'm sorry, but this film with it's brilliant comedy and beyond brilliant cast is so much better than "Here Comes Mr. Jordan", there's no comparison.

This is one of my favorite films of all time. I love it. It's funny, it's charming, it's inspirational. This is why God invented Hollywood.
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Still great after 40 years!
courtjes12 May 2019
This movie brought tears to my eyes in 1978 and did it again in 2019. Warren Beatty and Julie Chrisite have great chemistry and the rest of the case is excellent. Dyan Cannon screaming scene hilarious and its a funny, heartwarming, touching movie all around.
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One of the most creative movies that I've seen in a long time
RossRivero999 March 2017
Warning: Spoilers
"Heaven Can Wait" is one of the most original movies from the 1970s that I have ever seen and is one of the best sports movies ever made with such a heartbreaking story and intelligent romance. The movie stars Warren Beatty in his first movie as a director as the Los Angeles Rams quarterback Joe Pendleton who has the admiration of his teammates and coaches and it is almost super-bowl time in the beginning of the movie. Then Pendleton gives his coach Max Corkle (Jack Warden) a birthday cake and wishes him a happy birthday and then gets to talking about super-bowl game plans, after that scene we see Pendleton go bike riding in the street and he dies in an accident and then goes to heaven while not even knowing he was dead. When he comes into heaven he meets the escort to heaven (Buck Henry who also directed the movie) who is trying to convince Pendleton that he is dead when he really thinks that this is some sort of dream when it really isn't. Then the escort calls over Mr. Jordan (James Mason) to tell him to get on the bus to get into the gates of heaven when they find out that Pendleton isn't supposed to be dead for another 50 years. After that scene it is a race against time in order for Joe Pendleton to get back into his original body before it's too late and it is because he was already cremated so they come up with another idea which is that he would be in the body of a rich businessman named Mr. Farnsworth that was already murdered. Then what happens is that the two plotters of the crime Tony Abbott(Charles Grodin), and his wife Julia Farnsworth (Dyan Cannon). Then as the movie progresses Pendleton (who's in Farnsworth's body) holds a business meeting in the form of a press conference and then meets an environmental activist named Betty Logan (Julie Christie) who he really starts to have a crush on and she still has the same feelings for him. The romance scenes between Beatty's and Christie's respective characters are the most tender and authentic scenes that I have seen in years and their chemistry couldn't be any better. So back to the movie Farnsworth calls Corkle to his house to tell him that he wants to try out for the Los Angeles Rams as a quarterback in time for the super-bowl in which even if you didn't see this movie you'd know why this is happening and which from here I won't spoil anything else. The movie has a lot of good things about it, such as the screenplay by Warren Beatty and Elaine May, and the beautiful cinematography by William Fraker which was Oscar nominated is amazing. The movie also happens to be one of the most well acted movies that I have seen Beatty in and out of all of the movies that I saw him there wasn't one that I disliked. Also the Oscar winning art direction is fantastic. This movie is a treasure to experience and is an unforgettable one. It is one of 1978's best films.
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Great remake of 'Here Comes Mr. Jordan'
kijii25 November 2016
This movie was nominated for several Oscars: Best Picture, Best Actor (Warren Beatty), Best Supporting Actor (Jack Warden), Best Supporting Actress (Dyan Cannon), Best Director (Warren Beatty & Buck Henry), Best Writing based on material from another medium (Elain May & Warren Beatty), Best Cinematography (William Fraker) and Best Original Score (Dave Grusin). Bottom line, Warren Beatty was involved with writing, directing, and acting in this very entertaining movie.

This was a very good movie, should not to be confused with the 20th Century Fox movie, Heaven Can Wait (1943). The only similarity between these two movies, is that a man was called to a waiting station after dying. From there on, the stories are totally different.

Without going into a complete recapping of the movie, the Beatty character seems to have been assumed to be dead in a bicycling accident when an over reactionary "angel" (Buck Henry) took his soul to a waiting station before he was really dead. Once done, it could not be undone and the Warren Beatty character had to take another man's body.

It is at this point that the great comedy really starts to take hold, with Dyan Cannon and Charles Grodin knowing that they had killed the man to which Beatty's body is assigned. This is a great movie with a lot of comical overtones----but then so was Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941), the original movie from which this one was remade.


Now that Beatty has retired and I can look back over his movies, I have come to realize his really unique comedic talent: The characters he often did the best were actually fools who took themselves very seriously. Or, at least that is the way that I see him playing real characters like Jack Reed, Bugsy Siegel, and Clyde Barrow as well as fictitious character such as John McCab, George (in Shampoo) and Jay Billington Bulworth (in Bulworth). Note--This personal observation does not take into account those characters that he played who did not appear to be clownish fools, i,e, Bud in Splendor in the Grass.
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A wonderfully heartfelt film...
Stretch6821 September 2001
...that stands the test of time. This was immediately one of my favorite films when I first saw it in 1982, at age 13. I decided to pick it up when I saw it's recent release on DVD and I am still not disappointed in the film. I am not a Warren Beatty fan by any stretch of the imagination, but this is a classic...and Charles Grodin comes very close to stealing the entire show. Highly recommended.

The last 15 minutes of this film move the heck out of me, every time. I generally gravitate toward the "average" mark in rating movies, but this, in my opinion, rates a 9/10....I liked it quite a bit better than "The Deer Hunter", which won the Best Picture Oscar for 1978.
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A gentle and heart-warming fantasy comedy...
ElMaruecan8221 February 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I finally saw the last of the five Oscar-nominated male leading performances from 1978, and although I'm still not sure about who deserved to win, and why Brad Davis wasn't even nominated for his performance in "Midnight Express", I admit that something deeply touched me in Warren Beatty's performance as Joe Pendleton, a Rams quarterback whose life was prematurely taken in a road accident. I don't know if it's in the eyes, or in the way he looked so young despite his 40's, but the sweetness and gentleness of his character made the film.

Having only watched the remake with Robert Downey Jr., I thought Pendleton would reincarnate as a person and then realize who he was, while Beatty remains the same person, only using bodies as convenient media for his own personality, which is ethically acceptable, since all the bodies he takes would have been 'dead' otherwise. Joe only occupies bodies as settings for his own persona, illustrating the eternal philosophical connection between the body and the spirit. Now, I can't wait to see the original version by Ernst Lubitsch, with its evocative title : "Here Comes Mr. Jordan".

"Heaven Can Wait" made me wonder: how I would react from the announcement of my own death? I guess more than from the loss of people I love, I would be sadder because of all the things I would never have the possibility to do again, to have totally annihilated my chances to be a specific person, to be whatever I wanted to be, and never having the chance to be something else. For Joe, it's the same disbelief tainted with a sort of child-like optimism, he's dead yet still believes he has a chance to achieve his only dream: playing in the Super Bowl. Joe's personality is the emotional core of the film as it embodies our personal vision of happiness: to be what we plan to be. It's all about our plans, and "Heaven Can Wait" tackles this issue with the constant idea that everything that is done is determined by fate, a plan made by an almighty entity.

The film's most fascinating aspects lie between this incertitude of what is life and death, what is determined and what is natural, and Beatty's tactful direction never takes its message about life and death in a too depressing tone, keeping more in the tradition of Lubitch and Capra's films, and the hero's child-like attitude is compensated by the domineering presence of James Mason as a suave and comprehensive Head Executive aware of the bureaucratic mistakes that accidentally took his life. This point is crucial because it explains why I used the expression 'life was taken' instead of 'killed' and why Joe is given a second chance; he wasn't meant to be dead. And Joe is so good-hearted that he'll use this occasion to act positively, by taking the body of Mr. Farnsworth, an eccentric billionaire and controversial figure of the industrial world, a man whose life is targeted by his associate and wife, Charles Grodin and the Oscar-nominated Dyan Cannon, in irresistible comical performances.

From a meaningful introspection in the concept of life and death, the film flirts with pure comedy through the switched-bodies formulas, and allows Beatty to shine as an altruistic person who'll almost redeem Fansworth for the sake of community, and whose only selfish motive would serve his dream to play on the Superbowl. This opens the gate to the two most poignant aspects of the story, the beautiful friendship with Corkle, Jack Warden as his coach and the growing romance with Julie Christie as one of Farnsworth's detractor, a British ecologist who'll be touched by the amount of generosity he'll suddenly display. Again, the on-screen chemistry between Beatty and Christie is perfect and the romantic bond growing between them is tactfully handled by a subtle and nuanced direction, combined with the villainous pair of Grodin and Cannon.

But more than a romance, and a fantasy, the film also work as a great Sport film. In a interesting business meeting scene, Joe states his personal vision by comparing business with what he know best: football. This is crucial as it highlights his most endearing virtue: fair play. Joe doesn't do good actions because it's good but because it's fair, as it was fair that he would be allowed a second chance. Joe's second chance was also Mr. Farnsworth's second chance and then Tom Garrett's, one of his team-mates, if life is not to be taken for granted, neither is death. Fairness is the driver of the film, and something that elevate it beyond the level of a simple comedy, which makes us accept the idea that Farnsworth had to die, and that Joe couldn't live forever with his spirit in another body.

This leads to a heartbreaking scene where the only one who knew Joe's secret, his buddy Corkle, realizes that Joe's spirit vanished, leaving him alone again with his souvenirs and his clarinet, Jack Warden almost made me cry and I'm glad his performance was recognized by the Academy. Then, Joe as Tom meets Julie Christie again, and he wonders if they haven't met. This very moment echoes a previous scene where he was aware that his days in Farnsworth's body were numbered, and then told her that she might find him somewhere in another form, and the ending gives a subtle idea of what the plan is about, and why sometimes, we can't help but having a feeling of déjà vu, or of having lived some situation in different eras.

In a way, "Heaven Can Wait"'s ending is bittersweet because we must face the death of Joe's spirit, the only price for him to play in the Super Bowl. But I'm glad the film ended with the perfect touch, by leaving some hints that his gentle spirit didn't entirely disappear, in all fairness
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It's about love and comedy, not reincarnation
fredsab14 February 2004
All the divine machinations are there to forward the plot, they are certainly not the focus. The movie message is not about reincarnation but who we are inside the outward appearances. Julie Christie glows in her part while Beatty more than handles his straight lines, with Charles Grodin (never funnier), Dyan Cannon, and Buck Henry all delivering the comic goods. A comic masterpiece with wonderful irony and a satisfying love story. ***1/2 out of ****.
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A love story and a comedy with a great cast
lewsmailbox25 January 2017
I really enjoy this movie. It is both a love story and a comedy. The casting is superb. The pairing of Beatty and Christie is wonderful and helps advance the love story. They had this on screen attraction and comfort being with each other. After I first saw this movie, I found out that they had previously dated. And, the other main actors, James Mason, Buck Henry, Charles Grodin, Dyan Cannon and Jack Warden, are wonderful in their roles. The end of the movie is special. I watch this movie from time to time and always enjoy it. Beatty deserves a lot of credit for the casting, writing, directing and acting. I hope one day it will be available on blu-ray.
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The ending was very gut wrenching
safenoe9 October 2016
Warning: Spoilers
I agree with one of the reviewers - Heaven Can Wait deserves more than a 6.9 rating because it's a fine movie that is timeless in its spirit and message.

Warren Beatty should have won an Oscar for his role (he was nominated, along with Jack Warden and Dyan Cannon for their impressive performances). Anyway, he co-directed this with Buck Henry (who was a delight in The Blues Brothers).

The ending was incredibly emotional and I wonder what could have been and will become of the Beatty and Christie characters. It plays on the mind, and I especially liked the scene where the stadium lights gradually go out.
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A wonderful cast and an even better movie
jc1305us22 July 2013
A remake of 'Here comes Mr Jordan', 'Heaven can wait' is a absolutely wonderful 1970's fantasy/comedy with a cast that really makes the movie. Warren Beatty in one of his best roles, is Joe Pendleton, a pro quarterback who unexpectedly dies while training for his football comeback. When he reaches the afterlife, he learns that there was a mistake and that he was taken too early. Unable to return to his old body, after it is cremated, a suitable replacement must be found.

Entering the body of a wealthy industrialist murdered by his valet, Neil Farnsworth, Pendleton must decide what is really important to him, returning to football glory, or staying as Farnsworth to help a beautiful woman who comes to Farnsworth for help.

The film is a treat. Beautifully shot, with soft lighting, and wonderfully acted by a GREAT cast including James Mason as the angel Mr Jordan, Charles Grodin as the murderous valet, Jack Warden, Dolph Sweet, Dyan Cannon, and the beautiful Julie Christie as Beatty's love interest. A filmed really tinged with sadness in its own way, but a beautiful love story, it should not be missed. Highly recommended.
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Warren Beatty at his finest
Wailmer19909 July 2006
Heaven Can Wait is a milestone in Warren Beatty's long career. He produced, co-directed, co-written, and starred in this fantasy comedy of "probability and outcome". Originally Muhammad Ali was supposed to be cast for the role, but he turned it down, and it's a good thing he did. Beatty does a great job of handling the work of playing three different characters, as he goes from quarterback to businessman and back again. Warren also has great support from Julie Christie (whom Beatty worked with previously), James Mason (as the mysterious Mr. Jordan), Dyan Cannon (as the businessman's treacherous wife), Jack Warden (as trainer Max Corkle), Buck Henry (as the escort), and Charles Grodin. This film definitely deserved it's 9 Oscar nominations but it should have won more than one.
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Entertaining, But It Fell Apart At The End
sddavis6329 January 2003
Warning: Spoilers
I was really enjoying this movie. It was moving along at a good pace; I thought Warren Beatty was giving a good performance - and then the last twenty minutes threw in a plot twist that was totally unexpected (which would have been fine, except that it made no sense.) That, along with some illogical parts to the storyline, really brought this movie down a notch or two in my estimation.

Beatty played Joe Pendleton, a quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams who finally gets a chance to quarterback his team in the Super Bowl, except that heaven makes a mistake. "The Escort" (Buck Henry) wants to save Pendleton the pain of dying in a road accident and so plucks him out of his body before the accident happens. Unfortunately, Pendleton wasn't supposed to die in the accident but by the time the mistake is figured out his body is cremated, so he has to return to earth in the body of the fabulously wealthy Mr. Farnsworth.

First problem. Everybody has a time to die. OK. It's bad that "The Escort" brought Pendleton to heaven before he was supposed to die. But isn't it equally bad that Pendleton gets to keep living through the lives of two people whose time was supposedly up? Seems to me that would throw everything off balance too. What if Pendleton as Farnsworth or the quarterback whose body he took over (and I have to confess that name escapes me) killed someone after their time was supposedly up? Seems to me that would create real problems. But the real problem for me was the ending.


Why all of a sudden is Pendleton told that he won't be allowed to remember anything and will simply live as the quarterback whose body he took over? I thought the point was that Pendleton wasn't supposed to have died. But, in effect, heaven's Mr. Jordan (James Mason) kills him anyway by wiping away his memory when everything in the movie to that point suggested that he could keep living as Pendleton in someone else's body. I don't mind a plot twist, but that just made no sense to me.

Anyway, the movie is entertaining in spite of those plot problems. I enjoyed Beatty's performance as Pendleton (knowing nothing about business) attending Farnsworth's company's Board meeting and completely changing everything the company had been about by convincing the directors to look at things "like a football game." That was quite humourous. Jack Warden was quite good as Rams' trainer Max Corkle, who tries to get Farnsworth's body into shape for the Super Bowl, and Charles Grodin, Dyan Cannon and Julie Christie also offered good performances here.

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"Would you pay a penny extra to save a fish that thinks?"
asifahsankhan27 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
HEAVEN CAN WAIT is a very promising film. From the moment that the Ram coaches appear on the screen in their Bermuda shorts, it promises to be a funny film. From the moment that Julie Christie enters and begins her angry and persuasive plea on behalf of the people of Pagglesham, it promises to be a serious film. In fact, it promises to be more ambitious than its predecessor, HERE COMES MISTER JORDAN (1941), and most other Hollywood movies not only in its political commitment to some fairly liberal causes, but also in allowing a strong woman character to verbalise that commitment. That most of these promises are unfulfilled or betrayed is unfortunate; the film's reputation as an expression of American liberalism is well deserved.

Today this film seems a very decently thoughtful film, for the late 70's it was, at the time, one of the best comedies to come out of Hollywood in a long time. It is the product of some remarkable comic talents — Elaine May, who wrote most of the script; Warren Beatty, who wrote, directed, and produced the film; and Buck Henry, who co-directed. They have expertly exploited the comic situation of the athlete who returns to life as a millionaire, adding scenes and sequences suggested by but omitted from the original, such as the search for a suitable body. The dialogue demonstrates a skill for verbal humour, from Dyan Cannon's explosive pun (Mrs. Farnsworth, on the murder of her husband: "I should be canonised") to Charles Grodin's corporate double talk (Mr. Abbott, on the possibility that a company plant could stimulate seismic action in the San Andreas fault sufficient to destroy Southern California: "I think you'd have to define 'destroy.'"). Some old comic formulae reappear: Julia Farnsworth screams on cue following Farnsworth's line, "Miss Logan, I don't frighten anyone"; and Joe Pendleton interrupts his escort's explanation of the afterlife with an old coin trick. Then there are the visual gags — push-ups in the clouds, the flag ceremony, and others — and a musical score that contributes to the whole effect. Moreover, the humour succeeds due to the talents of several fine comic actors — Beatty, Cannon, Grodin, Henry, Jack Warden as Corkle, Joseph Mayer as Sisk, and Arthur Malet as his cocoa-toting assistant.

The audience is led to believe in Joe/Farnsworth as the champion of the ordinary individual. We are not allowed to consider that his earnings as a professional football player probably put him closer to Farnsworth's tax bracket than the average citizen's. Joe's heart seems to be in the right place: "Don't you think you could do something legal and still be wrong?" He is appalled to learn that merger rumours are leaked by the corporation in order to drive up the cost of stock: "But isn't that dishonest?" He is concerned about accusations made against the corporation — that its plants are environmentally unsafe; that its tuna canneries are killing and canning porpoises; that it has acquired property by bribery.

But the crucial scene is the board meeting. In a speech that usually evokes applause and cheers from the movie audience, Joe/ Farnsworth argues for a new company policy, modelled on the strategy of a winning football team at mid-season. If the company is making money, why not protect those profits by safeguarding against mistakes? Why not start "a good-guy tuna company that's on the porpoise team"? Why not, in short, institute a new policy of corporate responsibility? Such a policy would cost more, he admits: "But we don't care how much it costs, we just care how much it makes." This line is the real key to the film's political statement. We can't have our tuna and eat it too without paying for the privilege. By the end of the speech, in fact, the new advertising campaign is already under way: "Would you pay a penny extra to save a fish that thinks?"
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