Friday, December 21, 2012

Capsule Film Reviews: Chances Are

Chances Are (Emile Ardolino, Columbia TriStar, 1989) is yet another attempt by Hollywood to recapture its glory years. In this instance the film from its classic past that Hollywood hopes to recapture is Here Comes Mr. Jordan (Columbia, 1941). This is not the first time that Hollywood has remade Here Comes Mr. Jordan. Warren Beatty's Heaven Can Wait (Paramount, 1978) was a remake and updating of this classic man comes back to life in another body and wackiness ensues comedy subgenre.

In Chances Are, a film made by the same studio as Here Comes Mr. Jordan--that makes rights issues easier--Robert Downey Jr. plays Alex Finch, a recent graduate of Yale who dreams of getting a dream job at the Washington Post. Chances Are was made in the wake of the Watergate scandal which the Post played a major role in uncovering. While applying for a job at the Post Finch meets and is befriended by Phillip Train (Ryan O'Neal). Phillip takes Alex to the house of his friend and the woman he has loved for much of his life, Corrine Jeffries, played by Cybil Shepherd, and her daughter Miranda (Mary Stuart Masterson). Gradually Alex, who has bonded with Miranda, begins to realise that he is Louis, Corinne's husband, who died almost twenty years previously in an accident. Louis has been, in a scene right out of Here Comes Mr. Jordan, told by heaven's bureaucrats that he is dead but that he will be recycled back into a body of a just born infant. One of heaven's bureaucrats has accidentally failed to give him the shot of forgetfulness, however, and all sorts of wackiness ensues as Alex tries to convince Corinne that he is Louis. Chances Are ends in typical Hollywood fashion as Alex cracks a case Louis had originally solved, is offered, as a result, a job at the Post, gets the girl, in this case Miranda, and watches as Corinne and Philip finally marry. Don't you just love fairy tales with happy endings?

I didn't find Chances Are a great film. I did, however, find it a creditable effort by Hollywood to recapture its golden days. If you are looking for an adult light romantic comedy that is right out of the old Hollywood I think you will enjoy Chances Are. I'll give it two and a half stars on the Maltin meter.

By the way, it is a pity that Cybil Shepherd, who was also wonderful in the screwball television show Moonlighting (Glenn Gordon Caron, ABC, 1985-1989), wasn't around during the golden age of the fantasy factory because I think that she, like Barbra Streisand who was superb in Peter Bogdanavich's latter day screwball comedy What's Up Doc (WB, 1972), would have been a great actor in the era of Hollywood's golden age.

One more thing before I go, Chances Are uses the Johnny Mathis song "Chances Are" for its opening credit sequence. That song, which is kind of a throwback to the classic age of American songwriting, is a very appropriate one for a romantic comedy like Chances Are. It is a song I have always loved.

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