Dear God — starring Greg Kinnear, Tim Conway, Laurie Metcalf, Hector Elizondo
I have to admit being pleasantly surprised by Dear God. Originally I was only going to review it for completeness’ sake, as part of the Tim Conway reviews. I picked it up at my local Wal-Mart for only $4.00. I figured that even a little bit of Tim Conway was worth $4.00. Even if the rest of the movie was a waste. It wasn’t, for several reasons.
First, Tim Conway has a fair amount of screen time. He’s hilarious in every scene he’s in, and he’s in a lot of scenes. Another bonus is the number of good actors, who absolutely glow in their time on screen, in roles large and small. Also, I was pleasantly surprised by Laurie Metcalf. I wasn’t a fan of hers during her role on Roseanne. I was pleased that she played her role well, with a talent for comedy.
The beginning of Dear God is a little slow. It tries to establish Greg Kinnear’s character, Tom Turner, as a small-time con artist. He’s eventually caught by the police, and given the choice by a judge. Either prison or holding down a job for a year. To give him a taste of what it takes to earn the money that he so thoughtlessly cons people out of.
He manages to get a job with the U.S. Postal Service with the help of his uncle. Where he’s soon assigned to the dead letter office, managed by Hector Elizondo (one of my favorite actors). He’s working with a group of misfits, including Tim Conway as Dooley. Dooley’s a mailman who memorized the entire addresses for Los Angeles. But he was demoted after losing his temper and biting a dog. And now he’s paranoid, untrusting, and hilarious. Other misfits include Laurie Metcalf’s character, a former lawyer who’s borderline insane, several others who are just lazy, etc.
First good deed — sort of
There are several categories of undeliverable mail, including letters sent to God. Tom Turner reads one, and is touched by this woman’s story who is living in a decrepit apartment building. Tom is not reformed in any way at this point. In fact, he’s trying to steal some unclaimed items when he is caught. So he makes up a story about returning lost merchandise. He mails the items (as well as unintentionally mailing his paycheck) to this woman. Laurie Metcalf’s character sees this and thinks that he’s helping this woman out of the goodness of his heart.
She prompts, and virtually forces, him to do it again. Helping a woman who’s critically ill daughter wants a pony ride. Things began to snowball from there … Soon Tom and the other ‘losers’ are trying to answer other letters to God. They help to prevent a suicide (played well by another favorite, Jack Klugman. He proves the old adage that there are no small parts, only small actors. Along the way, the ‘broken’ postal workers begin to become more functional, including Tom himself. There’s a very nice scene where Tom has a conversation with a priest about Doubting Thomas and the nature of faith.
There’s necessary conflict in the movie, of course. Including a loan shark that the gambler Tom owes money to, as well as the authorities who want to crack down on these people who are (technically) breaking the law by reading someone else’s mail. The movie ends in a climactic courtroom scene, that borrows too much from Frank Capra’s Miracle on 42nd Street. Overall, a good, but not great, film. I rate it 3 out of 5 clowns.
Special delivery for comedy fans! Greg Kinnear (Sabrina) stars in and Garry Marshall (Pretty Woman) directs this spirit-lifter about a money-scamming con artist who goes from no-good to doing good. That con artist is Tom Turner (Kinnear), whose transformation begins when a judge gives him a choice of work or prison. Tom chooses work, of course, and is assigned to a post office’s Dead Letter Office. There, he begins a con of divine proportions. By responding to letters addressed to god with a few “miracles,” he’s in the right place to pocket any offerings mailed back. But an unexpected miracle takes place when the city starts cheering on Tom and his looney “God Squad” (featuring Tim Conway and Laurie Metcalf).
Cast of characters
- Greg Kinnear … Tom Turner
- Laurie Metcalf (Meet the Robinsons) … Rebecca Frazen
- Maria Pitillo (Godzilla (1998)) … Gloria McKinney
- Tim Conway (The Carol Burnett Show season 1; The Private Eyes) … Herman Dooly
- Hector Elizondo (Leviathan; The Princess Bride) … Vladek Vidov
- Jon Seda … Handsome
- Roscoe Lee Browne (The World’s Greatest Athlete) … Idris Abraham
- Anna Maria Horsford (Stone Pillow) … Lucille Barnett
- Kathleen Marshall … Whispering Wendy
- Isadora O’Boto … Hot Mary
- Felix Pire … Ramon
- Donal Logue … Webster
- Sam McMurray … Federal Prosecutor
- Nancy Marchand … Judge Kits Van Heynigan
- Larry Miller (For Richer or Poorer) … State Judge
- Rue McClanahan (The Golden Girls) … Mom Turner
- Jack Sheldon … Homeless Trumpeter
- Coolio … Gerard
- Toby Huss … Doubting Thomas Minister