Dear God

on November 01, 1996 by Christine James
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Well-intentioned and generally likable, it's nevertheless disappointing to think of the film "Dear God" might have been as compared with the fluffy final edit. In this comedy, charismatic con-man Tom Turner (Greg Kinnear) is given the choice of getting a job or going to jail, and he reluctantly chooses the former. He secures a position in the U.S. postal service's Dead Letter Office, a division in which all undeliverable mail is sorted, and where letters to fictional personages such as Santa, Elvis, the Easter Bunny and God end up. Tom soon sets about trying to purloin postal goodies that have fallen into the DLO void, but when he's nearly caught by his mysterious supervisor (Hector Elizondo), he pretends he's merely returning the items, and hastily sends them off to a random addressee--as it turns out, an impoverished mother (Ellen Cleghorne) who had written to God about her plight. A fellow co-worker (Laurie Metcalf) witnesses Tom's actions and believes he's on a mission to do God's work, and she wants to help. Soon the entire rag-tag misfit team of DLO employees are joining in, reading letters addressed to God and trying to aid those in need.
   Tom, meanwhile, resists what seems to be his innate urge to do good, opting instead to focus on trying to con his way into a relationship with beautiful single mom Gloria (Maria Pitillo). But she sees through him, and her honest nature catalyzes him to make a change. Unfortunately, what weakens the strong premise of this film is the lack of realistic characters. The love-interest plot is totally empty, certainly incapable of inciting a 180-degree personality change. The postal workers are mostly cartoons, and the recipients of assistance aren't that sympathetic. Scenarios that could stir emotion are cut short by wackiness, which is probably the film's main flaw: "Dear God" could have been a powerfully affecting movie had it been a drama with comedic elements; instead, its ascending ridiculousness crescendos cringingly when an apoplectic postmaster general (Garry Marshall) and a soulless lawyer (Sam McMurray) try to incarcerate the postal paladins. Starring Greg Kinnear, Laurie Metcalf, Maria Pitillo and Tim Conway. Directed by Garry Marshall. Written by Warren Leight and Ed Kaplan. Produced by Steve Tisch. A Paramount release. Comedy. Rated PG for language and mild thematic elements. Running time: 111 min. Opens 11/1 wide
Tags: Greg Kinnear, Laurie Metcalf, Maria Pitillo, Tim Conway, Garry Marshall. Written by Warren Leight and Ed Kaplan, Steve Tisch, Paramount, Comedy
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