Dear God Studio: Paramount Year: 1996 Rated: PG Length: 112 minutes Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, English and French Surround English Subtitles Special Features: None Release Date: January 27, 2004 So, I watched this film, Dear God, the other day. I had never heard of it before, but I’m a fan of director Garry Marshall and actor Greg Kinnear. I thought, at least, I would get a few chuckles over a couple of hours. Plus, with the always funny Tim Conway in a supporting role... how could I go wrong? Kinnear plays con artist Tom Turner. I can picture Kinnear as a con artist, precisely because of his innocent boy-next-door looks. The cons that are played out in the opening scenes of this film, however, are not clever enough to fool a five-year-old. Lucky for Tom, the average person in Los Angeles apparently has an I.Q. roughly equivalent to a 60 watt lightbulb... on a dimmer switch. While watching a film where fully two-thirds of the characters were the intellectual equivalent of Larry’s other brother Daryl, I was forced to wonder what the target demographic was for the film. So, here’s the setup: Tom gets caught in mid-con, and is arrested. Brought before a judge, he is sentenced not to probation or community service - but to get a job and hold it for a year. Or else. So, Tom sort of falls into a job at the post office, where he is assigned to the Dead Letter Office. This is where letters to Santa, the Easter Bunny, Elvis - and God - end up. Tom the Con reads a letter from an impoverished family addressed to God, and somehow accidentally includes his week’s pay in the response (which he shouldn’t have mailed in the first place). While trying to get the money back, he inadvertently runs into the family who wrote the letter, and doesn’t have the heart to ask for the money back. If it weren’t for all the Daryls running around, this is where the film turns into Capra-Lite. Seeing the good that Tom has done, all of the half-wits at the Dead Letter Office decide it is their new purpose in life to read and respond to letters addressed to God, helping the helpless. Of course, it’s against the law to open mail that isn’t addressed to you - so the “Postal Police” and the Postmaster General start an investigation to stop the do-gooders from doing good. Tom and the DLO Daryls try to maintain a low profile while continuing their work. Eventually, one of them is nabbed, and there is a big court scene complete with deranged dancing lawyers and canine witnesses, and bunches of half-wits fighting for their freedom, while thousands of postal workers demonstrate outside the courthouse. And amongst all the madness, the outcome is entirely predictable, and ultimately forgettable. Don’t get me wrong. I like a screwball comedy as much as the next guy. And when characters like the ones in Dear God are inserted into Newhart, Mama’s Family or The Carol Burnett Show, I think they’re a hoot. There isn’t a real character to be found in this film. It’s pure saccharine caricature. While that may work in sketch comedy or in supporting roles in a sitcom, it’s not enough to carry a feature film. Kinnear did what he could with his role, but there wasn’t a lot to work with. Not only that, but there aren't more than a few chuckles to be found. I expected more from Garry Marshall. I’ve always respected the man’s sense of comic timing - even if his films are often cut from the same mold. This one comes from a different mold altogether - one which I hope has been retired. The Video Dear God is brought to you in anamorphically enhanced widescreen, in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The print is clean and free of defects. A slight bit of haloing is visible around the letters in the title sequence, - and the slightest touch of haloing is visible in a few outdoor scenes - but aside from that there is no distracting artifacting in the transfer. Saturation seems natural, colors are neutral. There is good contrast and black levels are acceptable. Detail is average. Nothing pops out at you here and makes you say, “WOW,” but the transfer is perfectly adequate. The Audio This is a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. There are also English and French Dolby 2.0 Surround tracks included. The 5.1 track sounds quite nice, keeping in mind that, as a comedy, there isn’t a lot of action to give the surrounds or subwoofer a workout. Voices are crisp and full, and always understandable. Music is pleasantly spread across the front soundstage. Rear channels are occasionally used for ambient effects. Nothing remarkable, here - but certainly not a disappointment for the genre. Special Features This is a bare-bones catalog release. There are no special features. Final Thoughts Obviously, Dear God didn’t match my tastes - but it’s possible that fans of Garry Marshall, Greg Kinnear or Tim Conway could get some joy out of this film. If your curiosity has been piqued, I recommend a rental before purchase. As far as the transfer goes, it’s adequate all around for this catalog release from Paramount.