Mitch Albom improves upon his inspirational best-seller with a teleplay that pushes all the right buttons; director Lloyd Kramer and a strong cast headed by Jon Voight keep his tear-jerker's tide of suds from overwhelming its very real insights. Careworn Eddie (Voight), a man whose spirit has been eroded by misfortune, dies saving the life of a child. Injured in WWII and widowed prematurely, Eddie always felt shortchanged by his career as an amusement park technician at Ruby Pier; rather than value his part in ensuring the safety of youngsters on rides, the late Eddie feels he wasted his life by never venturing beyond the borders of his home town. Waking up in Heaven, Eddie is amazed to find paradise a quicksilver place that adapts itself to mirror the dreams of mortals. Five celestial tour guides usher Eddie through his orientation and make it their business to see that his trips down memory lane help him understand how much his positive influence on others meant. Eddie first encounters the Blue Man (Jeff Daniels), a Ruby Pier sideshow attraction who died of a heart attack after swerving to avoid hitting young Eddie with his car. Then he encounters the captain (Michael Imperioli) under whom he served in the army, who explains the nature of the leg injury Eddie sustained in a POW camp. After listening to advice from Ruby (Ellen Burstyn), the wife Ruby Pier's original owner, Eddie proceeds to a welcome reunion with his beloved wife, Marguerite (Dagmara Dominczyk). Eddie finally recognizes the fifth spirit as a child who lived in the village near his prison camp; the revelation of her connection to him frees Eddie from his myopic perception of his earthly existence. Voight's performance is a reminder that he's a quietly powerful force with which to be reckoned, and the film's best segments deal with Eddie's wartime experiences. To its eternal credit, this fantasy film reaches beyond paying lip service to emotional pain it may sugarcoat it ever so slightly, but acknowledges that however much growth pain may spur, it hurts.
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- Released: 2004
- Review: Mitch Albom improves upon his inspirational best-seller with a teleplay that pushes all the right buttons; director Lloyd Kramer and a strong cast headed by Jon Voight keep his tear-jerker's tide of suds from overwhelming its very real insights. Careworn… (more)