Made in Heaven (1987)

Genres - Fantasy, Romance  |   Sub-Genres - Heaven-Can-Wait Fantasies, Romantic Fantasy  |   Release Date - Nov 6, 1987 (USA)  |   Run Time - 102 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Nathan Southern

With Timothy Hutton and Kelly McGillis as the leads, and a premise that reads like classic Hollywood fantasy in the Here Comes Mr. Jordan vein, Made in Heaven probably sounded splendid on paper - like a real charmer. And in the right hands, it could have been exactly that. But the producer-scriptwriters flubbed by bringing in Alan Rudolph, one of the most eccentric of all directors, and someone with whom they supposedly had major creative differences. Rudolph has made outstanding movies (Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, Choose Me), but he tends to make oddball choices in every one of his films. In certain contexts, that off-center approach works, but Heaven is the type of material that calls for a more conventional studio filmmaker - a Dick Benjamin or a Garry Marshall. What we get is exactly the opposite; as it stands, the movie buckles beneath the weight of bizarre and quirky elements, such as an in-drag supporting role from Debra Winger (who looks like Martin Short here), as the movie's divine emissary; self-indulgent cameos by Rudolph's friends, such as Tom Petty, Neil Young, and Ric Ocasek; and a weird subplot with Ellen Barkin as a coked-out, gun-wielding nut who recruits Hutton's character to hold up a bar. There are other problems, as well, including one glaring lapse in continuity (during Hutton's first scenes back on Earth), and an unsatisfactory excuse for an afterlife. The movie's Heaven not only looks sloppy, with cheap, unimaginative studio sets, but it suffers from a lack of cohesion - we never believe that this is an actual place. And it functions according to poorly-conceived and murky rules, particularly the notion that heavenly residents can summon an individual, or create their surrounding environment, simply by imagining it. (Think of the narrative problems that this would introduce if the scriptwriters had taken it to its logical conclusion!) The sort of fanciful storytelling that this movie aims for has worked beautifully elsewhere, but the best examples demonstrate an air-tight narrative logic - such as Emile Ardolino's wonderful 1989 fantasy Chances Are. The producers of Made in Heaven had probably hoped for something along those lines, but wound up with a misfire. Actually, the movie's finest element may be its theatrical one-sheet poster, with one of the most endearing promotional images and taglines in memory, but the content doesn't live up to the expectations that the advertisement sets forth.