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Starring Greg Kinnear
Memo to Greg Kinnear: don't give up that talk show gig. Oops, too late.
The Sultan of Late Night Smarm goes down swinging in Dear God, which had Cranky praying for a fast ending with still an hour left to go. Thomas Turner (Greg Kinnear) has a betting problem which has gotten him a grand deep in the lurch to a loan shark. Not that he has any legitimate skills besides playing the ponies, mind you; Turner is the kind of guy who would lift the hooch from a passed out boozer's pocket.
Actually he tops that. He cons a nun. Imitates a Christmas Santa. But when the loan shark calls in the note, Turner has one last day to come up with a Grand, or else. The cops get him first and he is sentenced to a fate worse than death: legitimate work for a year.
Director Garry Marshall may have succeeded when he turned a prostitute into Cinderella (in Pretty Woman), but he cannot save such a despicable soul by casting him into the raging fires of the Pit.
The Pit (with all apologies to Dante) is, of course, the Dead Letter Office of the U.S.P.S., where undeliverable mail goes to die, and broken box goods (jewelry, computers, kitchen appliances) wait to be auctioned off. Turner works the day shift with half a dozen faces from TV sitcom-land, but has learned nothing from his plight. When caught stealing some undeliverable jewelry he has heisted, he thinks fast and packs it up (along with his salary) and sends 'em off to a needy soul whose address is on a "Dear God" letter.
Is Turner repentant? Has he seen the error of his ways? Heck, no. He tries to get the money back. Despite all this, his fellow DLO employees see Turner as an inspiration and take it upon themselves to start answering the letters.
Add to this distasteful mix a cute divorcee and her even cuter son, whom Turner teaches to hustle miniature golf, and you may ask yourself, "Does this vile crap ever end?" You may find yourself wishing that the loan shark would show up and end this awful exercise in wretched comedy with a few well placed swings of a baseball bat. But no, the loan shark story disappears into loose subplot Heaven.
Dear God should disappear even more quickly. Only at the end of the movie, when Tim Conway starts mugging for the camera -- doing anything he can for a laugh -- is there relief. Dear God plays like it was pieced together as it was being filmed. It doesn't know if it is a broad comedy, or a warm-hearted, tear-in-your-eye hankie flick. It is neither.
And though the soundtrack people were hip enough to include the same-titled song by Midge Ure in the movie, no one bothered to tell the screenwriters to read the lyric. It would have helped.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Dear God, he would have paid . . .
Three laughs and a tender moment in 110 minutes is not enough.
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