12 February 2019 | ronsmith-628-823334
Heavens To Betsy, You've Done It Again!
The problem with most sequels, be it books, movies or even music, is that one can easily lapse into repeating the original premise and cheapen it in the process. The best sequels are those that tell their own story, asking and answering their own questions.
When we last saw Betsy Simon in "Heavens To Betsy", she had returned to the life she was meant to live after experiencing an alternate existence in either a vision or parallel dimension where God granted everything for which she had ever prayed. She decided to write about her journey, confident that most people would see it as a work of fiction but be inspired by it.
Which is where "Heavens To Betsy 2" begins. Grounded firmly in reality, the sequel follows what happens to her after she writes that story but is forced by her agent to "downplay the religious aspects". While the first film was about how and why we should pray, the second examines what our relationship with God should be. Having denied her faith (three times, just like St. Peter, as she notes), Betsy decides to come clean and admit that the book is fact, not fiction. While this makes her very popular within the Christian community, she is accused by the mainstream media (in particular, one syndicated talk show host) of pandering to them for sales and the resulting fortune. Their confrontation comes to a head in a live telecast where he asks her an all-important question: if her now-deceased sister was alive in that "alternate reality" (because Betsy had prayed for her recovery from cancer), how could she return to this life and lose her again? It's a question that Writer/Director/Producer Robert Alaniz was forced himself to address as he created the sequel. And, without giving too much away, he addresses it admirably.
If this sounds like a strange notion for a comedy, it's not. While much of the laughs in the first film came from the premise of receiving everything you've prayed for all at once, the comedy in this film comes from the return of many offbeat characters (and some new ones as well) and Betsy's desire not to come off, as she puts it, "like a total crazy person", especially to her personal assistant in the other life who now sells shoes in this one.
Karen Lesiewicz returns as Betsy and, if anything, is better here than in the original. Watch her face at the end of the film as she wordlessly runs through four or five different emotions before finally breaking into a smile that will definitely make you reach for the tissues. Steve Parks also returns as Brian, Betsy's personal assistant who has to get over how unbelievable her claims are before he can ultimately guide her, as he does in the first film, through the storm that is her life. The great Jim O'Heir (you remember him from TV's "Parks And Recreation") is back as Pastor John, her spiritual rock and counselor. The good pastor's character gets fleshed out a bit in the sequel, as we learn he is married, is an Elvis fan and loves to quote "Rocky" films. Unfortunately, Betsy's never seen a "Rocky" film.
Gary Gow plays the new character of TV host Tandum Dackery with just the right amount of villainy without becoming a caricature. For Dackery, as I suspect for many in television, it's not personal-- it's all about the ratings.
There's little doubt that "Heavens To Betsy 2" is a faith-based movie aimed squarely at believers, who are asked just like early Christians were to stand up for what they believe in. And that's what makes this film universal. People of all faiths can find inspiration from it to side with what is true, proper, ethical, moral and yes, "Heavenly".