It is unfortunate that "The Heavenly Kid" became lost under the vast muddle of slick teen comedies that were so rampant during the mid 1980's. This film, which has a pre-"Malcolm In The Middle" Jane Kaczmarek, "Animal House's" Mark Metcalf, "Backdraft's" Jason Gedrick, and veteran actor Richard Mulligan, really shined through for me as an entertaining (yet predictable) dramedy on guardian angels.
It is the story of a brash 1960's greaser named Bobby Fantana, amiably played by TV actor Lewis Smith, who meets an untimely demise in a drag race accident. Once transported into the Afterlife, Bobby teams up with his roguish, motorcycle-driving spectral mentor Rafferty (Mulligan) and discovers from him that he hasn't quite earned his right into Paradise, and the only way he can redeem himself is to undertake an earthly assignment in assisting the mortals. Fast forwarding to the 1980's, Bobby is given the dubious task of coaching Lenny Barnes (Gedrick), a gifted, gawky teen who is a popular target for the class bullies. It's up to him to befriend and guide the boy through his little life crisis, and he decides to transform Lenny into a cool, confident splitting-image of himself that soon gains the attention of his peers. All is fine until Lenny's newfound cockiness butts heads with his family and with two of his old tormentors, who finally challenge him to a drag race of their own. It's then up to Bobby to rectify the damage he has unintentionally done and save Lenny from repeating history while hopefully garnering his wings at last.
Although many critics have scathed this film for a rather shallow, loopholed storyline, "The Heavenly Kid" does exude some attributes that I have come to enjoy over the years. The soundtrack is one of the best I've heard for an 80's teen flick; just love "Out on the Edge" during Bobby's fatal racing scene. Lewis Smith's performance gives a uniquely genial quality to his loner character that makes a sometimes funny "Odd-Couplesque" persona with both Gedrick and Mulligan. Seeing Bobby acclimate to the radically different 80's pop culture brings a laugh or two to myself! Finally, even though the ending is entirely predictable, it always leaves me feeling good inside, even on a bleak, rainy Saturday.
It is also unfortunate that "The Heavenly Kid" has gone out-of-print in recent years! I was lucky enough to record it off of HBO this past summer for my collection, but I think it does deserve a chance for a VHS/DVD re-release. This is one comedy that the entire family can enjoy, provided there's no objection to some PG-13 based language and adult humor.