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Search our database of more than 4,500 film reviews. We have been discovering spiritual meanings in movies for nearly four decades.

Film Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

 

Oh, God!
Directed by Carl Reiner
Warner Home Video 10/77 DVD/VHS Feature Film
PG

AN OPENING THOUGHT

"Religion is one of the larger roadblocks that God has had to put up with in the process of getting his messages through to the world. The usual religious view is that God has his finger in every pie and, as the infinite meddler, never lets anything act for itself."
— Robert Farrar Capon

A CHAT ABOUT THE FILM

Pastor Harvey Boston: "I've just seen this parabolic film called Oh, God! directed by Carl Reiner. Its both funny and serious. John Denver plays an ordinary fellow, the assistant manager of a supermarket, who gets an invitation to talk with God. At first the Holy One speaks to him on an intercom, then through all the channels on the car radio, and finally in person. God, played by George Burns, turns out to be a feisty old man. He wants Denver to tell the world that he cares, that he believes in human beings, and that everything is going to be fine if people do right by each other and the good Earth.

But, of course, no one believes that this unknown fellow has actually talked to God, much less seen him. Denver's wife is perplexed, his kids embarrassed, and his superior put off by the whole thing. The newspapers think he is a kook. But this suburban Moses keeps trying to get God's message across. He finally appears on Dinah Shore's TV show and is later questioned by a panel of theologians and religious celebrities."

Pastor Peter Richard Hartford: "Okay, you can stop right there! Can you seriously tell me that you would recommend this superficial movie to anyone? Any good Christian knows that no one has seen God at any time and that it is written in the Bible: 'My ways are not your ways.' "

Pastor Harvey Boston: "That's one of the valid points this little movie is making. We always expect God to fit into our limited ways of perceiving. We expect him to prove himself by miracles or playing the role of Mr. Fixit. Our attitude is — Let God Do It. This film says that God does care about how we handle our lives on earth, but also — and this is important — that we are responsible for what happens here. We can't just abdicate our task of ushering in the future because we're scared or have messed things up so badly already."

Pastor Peter Richard Hartford: "But the depiction of God you are talking about sounds like it takes God's transcendence too lightly. I'm sure too that it satirizes decent theologians who are trying to make the Word of God clear. That's why I don't go to movies much anymore — they make fun of everything, even sacred things."

Pastor Harvey Boston: "Well, my friend, you are right about one thing: Oh, God! is a mischievous movie. It dares to put forward the proposition that far too many people only want to think of God as the Great Bookkeeper in the Sky. At one point in this movie, the theologians submit a list of questions for Denver to ask Burns. As if God should have to take a quiz to prove that he is the Answer Man. The movie reminded me that Jesus never locked God up into one image or parable and that St. Paul proclaimed a God whose wisdom is foolishness! I got to thinking after watching this film about all the odd ways the Holy One has spoken to us throughout history and the very ordinary individuals chosen to be his messengers. Who are we to question Him?

"Oh, God! does take pot shots at holier-than-thou hotshots who want to hoard the Word of God or sell it. But then, there's nothing wrong with that — it's a sturdy Biblical tradition! What I liked most about this film is that it celebrates God and human beings in a crazy, lovable way while remaining thoroughly enjoyable entertainment."

A CLOSING THOUGHT

"The will of God is not a list of stops for us to make to pick up mouthwash, razor blades and a pound of chopped chuck on the way home. It is his longing that we will take the risk of being nothing but ourselves, desperately in love. It is not a neatly arranged series of appointments in a tidy office, but a life of bad dreams, minor triumphs and major disasters — of things we did not have in mind at all, and of preoccupations that miss each other in the dark."
— Robert Farrar Capon

 

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Reviews and database copyright 1970 2012
by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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