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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 22.22%
Average: 8.33%
Pretty Bad: 2.78%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 30 user ratings

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My Blue Heaven
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by Ryan Arthur

"Would you like to try a vanilla bran oat crunchy?"
4 stars

There are certain actors that I can watch at certain times in their careers and marvel at how entertaining - and how good - they are. Steve Martin is one of those guys, and My Blue Heaven is one of those movies.

My Blue Heaven came at a time when Steve Martin was approaching the end of his comedic actor peak. Released on the same day as The Exorcist III and Wild At Heart, it kind of got lost in the shuffle, but it's got a strong performance from a cast-against-type Martin despite the relatively light touch from director Herbert Ross.

Martin is Vincent "Vinny" Antonelli, a hood who's been relocated (and renamed Todd Wilkinson) to the California town of Fryburg as part of the Witness Protection Program. Vinny's set to testify in a couple of major mob trials and needs to hide out for a while. He's being watched over by Agent Barney Coopersmith (Rick Moranis, playing the straight man). Vinny's smooth. He spins lies effortlessly, especially when he's nabbed by the local D.A., Hannah Stubbs (Joan Cusack, completely buttoned-up). Barney is the very definition of not smooth: so straight that not only will he not take a $100 tip from his new charge ("you don't tip FBI men!"), but he also stands up during the playing of the National Anthem. On the television. At the end of the broadcast day. With no one else in the room. His wife - a therapist - leaves him for one of her younger patients. He's the mayor of Squaresville. Hannah, in comparison, is divorced and wears suits with big ol' shoulder pads. She dotes on her kids, but can't stand up to her ex-husband (Daniel Stern in a brief appearance), who has a tendency to just waltz right in to his ex-wife's house.

Vinny finds it hard to stay on the straight and narrow, and ultimately "re-embarks on his career" as a criminal after finding several other transplanted informants in Fryburg, most notably Johnny Bird/Billy Sparrow (the late - and great - William Hickey). Hannah, straight arrow that she is, hounds Vinny at every turn, trying to bust him, but Barney's always there to bail him out of trouble. Vinny tries to set Barney and Hannah up, partially to keep her out of his way (not implicitly stated, but after all, the guy's a criminal), but also partially because he thinks they're right for each other. In a more conventional comedy, Hannah would be the woman who came between Vinny and Barney. But My Blue Heaven tries not to be (and sort of half-succeeds) a conventional comedy.

The late Herbert Ross had some hits as director of some modest dramadies and musicals/dance pictures, most notably Pennies From Heaven (in his first film with Martin), Steel Magnolias, The Turning Point (for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director), Protocol and Footloose. He also had a few film collaborations with Neil Simon, including the filmed versions of The Sunshine Boys and The Goodbye Girl. Sadly, My Blue Heaven isn't his best work. Part of it is due to the film's meandering nature and uncertainty of the characters. Writer Nora Ephron has Vinny written as a smooth-talking charmer, a guy with an easy-going demeanor. That makes it somewhat difficult to see him as the legitimate badass lieutenant to a mob boss. It's also hard to believe that all-business Hannah pretty much throws her professional beliefs out the window for a schlub like Barney.

That's not to say the actors don't have fun with their characters. Vinny was pre-Harris K. Telemacher for Martin, and he looks like he's having a lot of fun here. The New Yawk accent is a little spotty, but you can overlook it, because Martin make Vinny just ooze charm. Vinny's also a bit of a goof, but that's intentional; Martin makes Vinny completely self-aware of his fish-out-of-water surroundings. He knows what he's doing and he knows how he's going to do it. The plot of the film's a bit weak, but Ephron does give the cast some memorable lines, and everyone (Martin especially) makes the most of it. Moranis can amp it up when he wants to, but he plays it relatively close to the vest, except for when he cuts loose with Vinny in New York and learns to merengue, impressing (and wooing) Hannah. Cusack is frumpier and more low-key than we're used to, but her radiance shines through in the end when Hannah finally lightens up. She could have been written a little better to play to Cusack's strengths.

That's where My Blue Heaven works: the characters and (more specifically) the actors who play them. Ephron's crafted a kind of silly storyline, but Martin certainly gives it a go, and has decent chemistry with the rest of the cast.

My Blue Heaven is, for me, the exception to the rule of Steve Martin movies (if he's just playing a role it's not as good as if he's written the script). Martin makes the movie watchable, and you can't really ask for more than that.

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originally posted: 08/17/03 06:05:51
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User Comments

8/10/18 Suzanne This movie (and the music) always makes me smile. 5 stars
3/08/08 Pamela White classic Martin at his best 5 stars
8/25/07 Asher Watch it over and over, and you'll laugh at something different everytime! 5 stars
12/22/06 tony I want the soundtrack 5 stars
12/12/06 Frank Gimme that pen again!....Definatley in my top 10.....110% positive 5 stars
8/07/04 J. Jones One of the most "quoteable" movies I've ever seen. Genuinely funny character film. 5 stars
5/17/04 Zeb McClure "Oh really?" 5 stars
10/04/03 Jaina Really funny! 5 stars
1/20/03 Marianne What's aurugula? It is a vegetable!! 4 stars
12/29/02 Jack Sommersby It grows on you. 3 stars
12/11/02 Rob Phillips Very funny! A classic lighthearted comedy. 5 stars
10/28/02 david ross One of the Funniest Movies Ever! 5 stars
4/08/02 rinao heartilly this movie was sooooo funny 5 stars
4/06/02 Petra Hof great 5 stars
3/31/02 Marcia Lartz Martin hit&mis, Moranis suprisingly good straight man, but Cusack begins her downwrd spiral 2 stars
2/24/02 Jeffrey "VINNY" Vince I saw it in the theatre when it was released and I watch it again every time it is on T.V. 4 stars
2/08/02 Joe I love this movie. Steve Martin did a fantastic acting job on this one. 5 stars
1/04/02 Vballpunk33 SO FUNNY 5 stars
1/02/02 Rao can anyone tell me where I can find the merenge tune I love it 5 stars
12/29/01 Smeets A great comedy, very entertaining, but starting to show its age 5 stars
11/20/01 MASON BJERKE VERY COOL 5 stars
10/04/01 Marko ( Hilarious, Martin's character reminds of myself ; ) 5 stars
5/21/01 The Bomb 69 i just didn't see the humor 3 stars
5/18/01 can anybody tell me who plays the merenge thanks 5 stars
5/01/01 erica very funny and jesse is soo cute 5 stars
2/23/01 anonamous Funny! 5 stars
2/13/01 T.Gonzales Best Comedy"Buddy Movie" PERIOD 5 stars
2/11/01 Mac McCarthy Great & memorable film 5 stars
2/03/01 Lindsay What a Day! What a great MOVIE!!! 5 stars
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  02-Oct-1990 (PG-13)



Directed by
  Herbert Ross

Written by
  Nora Ephron

  Steve Martin
  Rick Moranis
  Joan Cusack
  Larry Block
  Carol Kane
  William Hickey

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