15 September 2016 | AlsExGal
George Burns as a Libertarian God
George Burns picks an average Joe, the married assistant manager of a grocery store with two kids (John Denver as Jerry Landers) to put out the message that he is unhappy with the direction things are going, but that everything necessary to put things right is available on the earth and it is up to the people if things are going to change for the better. And Jerry doesn't even believe in God, at first anyways. Now maybe God was smart to pick an unbeliever, since he would have no preconceived notions of God, no childhood Sunday school lessons with which to fight what his eyes are telling him.
But Jerry is confused by this Libertarian God. Think about it- Burns' interpretation of God definitely has an opinion of how things should go, but refuses to lift a finger to change anything. He believes the people should do the fixing and that He should have a "hands off" policy. Even after Jerry gets in trouble with his new role and risks his marriage, his career, even everything he owns in a lawsuit with a televangelist, and he and God are saying their goodbyes, God doesn't promise to do anything to help him repair the smoldering remains of his life. He just tells Jerry that he did a good job getting the message out and walks off. Yep, that sounds like the God I know.
As for the acting, at the time George Burns did a guest appearance on the TV show Alice and mentioned he was picked for the lead because he "was the only person old enough to play the part". Burns did a great job of slinging the occasional zinger in the film like in his younger years playing straight man to Gracie. John Denver did a convincing job of playing a working stiff that just doesn't have time for this stuff but feels he must comply. What else do you do when God keeps picking you up in a taxi? And poor Terri Garr, she spent 1977 playing a housewife who is married to a modern day Moses in this film, and married to a guy making the replica of a mountain out of mashed potatoes in her den in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind".
Looking at it 40 years after the fact, the one thing that this film got right way ahead of its time was the crooked televangelist, artfully played by Paul Sorvino. So artfully I had forgotten that he was playing the part until I rewatched the film recently. God knows that the guy is enriching himself in his ministry, and his sermons never talk about morality, just the importance of giving. This was 14 years before Bob Tilton was exposed as a con artist on ABC's primetime live, 10 years before Jim Bakker was found to be running his "Christian amusement park" as a giant Ponzi scheme, and eleven years before Jimmy Swaggart was caught in an ongoing sex scandal even while condemning another dishonored pastor for his own.And as for Mike Murdock? Don't get me started. Let's just say that Paul Sorvino has the act down pat from the big hair to the rather colorful wardrobe to the Southern accent and fake politeness.
It's a very quirky film, certainly with lots of made up feel good philosophy attributed to God, but it is fun, certainly different, and try making a film like that today with all of the political correctness in the air. I'd recommend it.