FILMS

Wishful thinking

Canadians hit a home run in a new comedy

Brian D. Johnson October 22 1990
FILMS

Wishful thinking

Canadians hit a home run in a new comedy

Brian D. Johnson October 22 1990

Wishful thinking

Canadians hit a home run in a new comedy

MR. DESTINY Directed by James On

Through an unlikely twist of fate, an average joe winds up in a rich man's shoes. It is a well-worn Hollywood premise—and actor James Belushi seems to be making a career out of it. In Taking Care of Business, released a mere two months ago, he played an escaped convict who switches identities with a high-powered executive. Now, in Mr. Destiny, he portrays a white-collar drone who steps through the Twilight Zone into a new life as a tycoon. In both movies, baseball serves as the central metaphor for success and failure. And in both, Belushi is an ingenuous, beer-loving Chicago Cubs fan, a plebeian who runs riot through the upper class-and re writes capitalism's rules to his own liking. But Mr. Destiny is a cut above the workmanlike Taking Care of Business. Novice feature-film director James Orr and writing partner Jim Cruickshank-both Canadians-have injected a familiar formula with surprising wit. And Belushi's charm is infectious.

Larry (Belushi) has a loving wife, Ellen (Linda Hamilton), a cute dog and a funny best friend, Clip Qon Lovitz). But he lives in a tract house surrounded by mud and works for a despicable boss at a dull desk job. Larry is convinced that his mediocre life is the direct result of losing a championship baseball game in high school—he struck out on the fined pitch. On the night of his 35th birthday, he walks into a pub called the Universal Joint. The bartender, a gentleman genie played by Michael Caine, pours him a highball called “spilt milk,” which magically changes his destiny. Larry walks out into a new life—as an achiever who hit the home run, married the prom queen and became ridiculously rich. Inevitably, Larry gets lonely at the top. “I never knew what I had,” he says, spelling out the moral.

Orr and Cruickshank have rewired such old sentiments with fresh gags and clever twists. The two, who studied film together at Toronto’s York University, changed their own destiny by scripting the uninspired but successful Three Men and a Baby (1987)—which allowed them to write their own ticket in Hollywood’s big leagues. Mr. Destiny is written and directed with care and craft. Like a homer crushed over the centre-field fence, it follows a predictable arc—with winning results.

BRIAN D. JOHNSON