||My Blue Heaven
1990 - PG-13 - 91 Mins.
|Director: Herbert Ross|
|Producer: Goldie Hawn|
|Written By: Nora Ephron|
|Starring: Steve Martin, Rick Moranis, Joan Cusack |
|Review by: John Ulmer
After a car is stolen by a gangster:
"And where did you learn to jump start a car?"
"I had to learn to jump start ambulances to get invalids to the dialysis machines."
- Joan Cusack and Steve Martin, "My Blue Heaven."
There's a lot of fun to be found in "My Blue Heaven," a simple little comedy with only good intentions. I find it almost impossible to dislike - it has little offensive material, it isn't a stupid, recycled movie packaged with marketable trimmings. Instead, it is a joyful little flick that knows it is no Oscar winner but still tries to entertain its audience. And it does. "My Blue Heaven" is pure heaven for anyone who appreciates fine comedy - it's a little bit wacky, a little bit goofy, and very, very funny.
Steve Martin is perfectly cast as the wild and crazy Vincent Antonelli, a Mafia informer who has been entered into the Witness Protection Program. His wife wants no part of their new, cheery life in a suburban America so she leaves him early on. Rick Moranis is equally well-cast as Barney Coopersmith, the FBI agent assigned to protect Vinnie and make sure his new life is suitable to his comfort.
Barney's wife has just left him, too. She complains that he is too anal-retentive. She even mentions that he has a technique for getting equal amounts of butter on his waffles. Meanwhile, Vinnie soon tires of his new life and resorts to crime - first little things, such as marking down prices on meat in the local grocery store - which results in the best single line in the entire film, when a perky employee greets Vinnie. His response is a four-letter-word that isn't nearly as (c)rude as it seems it would be at first. Soon he meets up with old partners and crime and they form a new crime syndicate - much to the chagrin of a female police officer named Hannah Stubbs (Joan Cusack), who seems to be the perfect match for Barney Coopersmith.
Hannah is unable to prosecute Vinnie because he is a Federal Witness. At first she and Barney hate each other. Then they grow closer. Vinnie watches on with joyful interest. And what makes this movie so enjoyable, in part, is the chemistry between Martin and Moranis.
It's their first film together since "Parenthood." They're a good duo, and Martin is so out of character here you start to forget it's even him playing an Italian mobster. Compare Vincent Antonelli to Neal Page (Martin's character in "Planes, Trains and Automobiles"), and the difference in not only attitude but mannerisms and levels of intensity is clearly evident. Martin can play the middle-class American white male especially well, but this film clearly shows that he has not left his wacky background in such films as "The Jerk" far behind.
"My Blue Heaven" came out the same year as "Goodfellas" (1990). It was impeccable timing - at the end of "Goodfellas" we are left with the penetrating image of Ray Liotta's character Henry Hill outside a suburban home in a cheery neighborhood which, remarkably, looks exactly like the neighborhood in "My Blue Heaven." It could be argued that "My Blue Heaven" is an immediate sequel in some senses. Where "Goodfellas" left off "My Blue Heaven" starts - it just throws in some comedy. Which is why I don't understand its small impact when it first arrived in theaters. (Suffice to say, it sorta flopped.)
I own this film on a VHS tape I purchased for $4.99 at Wal-Mart. I found it lying in the bottom of a discount video barrel with no-name titles. There are comedic gems that have gained respect over the years, and then there are comedic gems that have slipped by unnoticed. "My Blue Heaven" wasn't very noticed upon its release in 1990, the few critics who saw it seemed not to pay any attention to it. Funny how some of the most joyful comedies slip by. My Blue Heaven" is a few laughs short of a comic masterpiece.