Director/Producer – Gilbert Gates, Screenplay – Fred S. Fox, Hal Goldman, Josh Greenfeld, Seaman Jacobs & Melissa Miller, Story – Greenfeld, Photography – Ralph Woolsey, Music – Charles Fox, Production Design – Preston Ames. Production Company – Warners
Louanne (Tracy Richards), George Burns (God), David Birney (Don Richards), Suzanne Pleshette (Paula Richards), John Louie (Shingo)
While out at a restaurant with her father, young Tracy Richards states her opinion that sometimes one should just believe in things that one cannot see such as God. Immediately after, she starts to receive mysterious fortune cookie messages, hears voices and then receives a visit from God. God is concerned that nobody believes in Him anymore. Tracy suggests that He advertise and so God places her in charge of the campaign. She comes up with the idea of conducting a graffiti blitz with the slogan “Think God.” Both her parents and teachers become concerned at her persistent belief in God’s appearance and at seeing her talking into thin air and try to commit her to a psychiatric institution.
Oh, God! (1977), featuring George Burns as an Almighty who appears before nebbish supermarket clerk John Denver, asking him to carry His message to the world, was a modest hit. Oh God Book II was the first of two disappointing sequels, which both brought George Burns back. It would be followed by Oh God, You Devil (1984).
The original story was a gentle, occasionally clever but in the end not terribly theologically challenging satire on religion. However, by the point of this film, all of the satire has been pushed aside and the central concept redrafted as a kid’s movie. Whatever you can say about the first film, it at least had some moderately intelligent points to make about religion. This film alas plays the entire idea down about the level of a 1970s sitcom. Indeed, this film’s God is so stripped of any theological weight or debate that the film resembles no more than a mediocre copy of Miracle on 34th Street (1947) or Harvey (1950) – it is not even a film about religious ideas, it is merely a comedy about a little girl being thought crazy because she has an invisible companion. In fact, for all the film’s message about “Think God”, the film never even offer a single reason as to why one should do so. The film is entirely maudlin. The scenes with young Louanne aboard an apparently driverless motorcycle are like a banal attempt to copy a live-action Disney slapstick comedy.
George Burns certainly gives a serviceable performance. Even the young Louanne adds a light sparkle. (Real name Louanne Sirota, she was chosen after playing the title role in a stage production of Annie. Today Sirota is journalist and the associate editor of E! Online).