Mr Destiny (1990)


USA. 1990.


Director – James Orr, Screenplay/Producers – James Orr & Jim Cruickshank, Photography – Alex Thomson, Music – David Newman, Visual Effects – Apogee Productions (Supervisor – Peter Donen), Animation Effects – Available Light Ltd, Special Effects Supervisor – Richard C. Higgins, Production Designer – Michael Seymour. Production Company – Orr-Cruickshank/Laurence Mark Productions/Touchstone Pictures/Silver Screen Partners IV


James Belushi (Larry Burrows), Linda Hamilton (Ellen Burrows), Michael Caine (Mike), Rene Russo (Cindy Jo Earle), Hart Bochner (Niles Pender), Jon Lovitz (Cliff Meltzer), Bill McCutcheon (Leo Hanson), Jay O. Sanders (Jackie Earle), Pat Corley (Harry Burrows), Courteney Cox (Jewel Jagger)


It is Larry Burrows’ 35th birthday and nothing is going right. He is fired from his job at the Liberty Republic sporting goods firm. Stopping in at a bar on the way home, he laments to the barman Mike how nothing in his life has gone right since he missed a homerun in a baseball game in 1970. The barman offers Larry a drink called The Spilt Milk. After drinking it, Larry finds himself in the world that would have happened had he hit the homerun, where he is now the president of Liberty Republic. As he tries to find his wife Ellen in this world, he discovers that this ideal life is not all he imagined it to be.

This Disney film, which did little business, is a copy of the classic It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). It falls far short of producing even the schmaltzy sentimental paean to ordinary life that Frank Capra conjured there.

Part of Mr Destiny‘s fault is in trying to make itself into a comedy. As a result of the comedic emphasis, the thrust of most of the middle has become less James Belushi’s realiation of what he is missing in his life, as in It’s a Wonderful Life, but comic plays on his reaction to the trappings of wealth. A slapstick golfing sequence is particularly painful to watch. In essence the film is an alternate world fantasy, but it makes the criminal mistake of never giving us any indication of what the critical fulcrum means to the hero – we never know why he feels that his life has been a loss ever since he failed to hit the home run in 1970 or why his failing to hit the home run made the difference between his becoming the company president or a mere accounts department employee.

Other major problems lie in the casting. Michael Caine is dreadfully miscast – forced to suppress his natural Cockney cockcertainty and trying to appear smilingly all wise, he comes across instead as pained. Perhaps the biggest piece of miscasting is James Belushi. Belushi is a very physical actor – he always gives the appearance his greatest aspiration in life is drinking beer with the boys and wolf-whistling at strip shows. Sensitivity is not an expression that comes to mind when one thinks of Belushi – the nearest he ever comes seems a slack-jawed lugubriousness. What this role needed was an ordinary schmuck who can conjure a sense of everyday middle-class aspiration, someone like a Tom Hanks or a Robin Williams.

Mr Destiny ultimately comes down to being another conservative middle-class fantasy – one that iterates the view that ordinary folk should not want more than they have and should be grateful for what they do have in life. The film compensates somewhat by adding an equally old cliche to the brew – that good and simple folks will eventually be rewarded for their efforts if they persevere unselfishly.

Trailer here

Actors: , , , , , , , , ,
Themes: , , ,