Inner discovery is said to be happening daily with sidewalk sages promising prizes inside each box of cosmic crackerjacks. On every street corner, devotees of some spiritual Columbus - often painted figures who swirl and chant to proclaim the Age of Instant Well-Being - hawk their special road maps to the soul. The snap, crackle and pop of beatitude is in the air.
What better season for "Oh, God!", a light inoffensive satire that brings God back to earth as crusty, caring George Burns to tell mankind to stop mucking up the river-fouling the air, killing each other off, preaching exclusive paths to heaven and to get back to the business of loving. God chooses and unlikely messiah in Jerry Landers (John Denver), a supermarket manager who doesn't oil his cucumbers because "It's dishonest." But Landers doesn't beleive in God - even after he meets Burns around the canned hams. It takes a few miracle. But that's jumping ahead.
Landers first recxeives a note from God for rendezous on the 27th floor of a 17-storey building. he can't understand why he was chosen to spread the word, nor can his wife (Teri Garr) or his two children - both highly wmbrassed that hteir father could ever be so uncool as to accept the assigment.
You'll recognize Landers. He's the kind of guy who sat on the front row in high school, overacheived for Bs. missed the war by reading Action comics and rebelled against his parents by skipping Sunday school.
Perhaps that's the problem. No matter how hard Mr. Rocky MOuntain High tries to play a nonbeliever who comes how sincerely JOhn Denver beleives; He sings about everything wholesome; he looks like the kid on the can of Dutch Boy Paint; and his blue eyes sparkle throughout the film - not just at the end.
The screenplay (by Larry Gelbart from an Avery Corman novel) and direction by Cari Reiner (whose talents date back to Sid Caesar's "Show of Shows") move "Oh, God", right along. But you can't help wondering if it's possible to pull off a movie about finding God. Cecil B. de Mille did it with "The Ten Commandments," but that was 1976.
For Burns, 82, "Oh, God", is his first movie since he won an Academy Award for "The Sunshine Boys" two years back. It's specials and "Tonight Show" fill-ins have become almost as regular as the milkman.
"Oh, God!" might well serve as a family outing, and it should certainly play well near Plains, Ga., where Warner Brothers has charteres a bus to scoot Chip Carter and neigbors to Americus for a preview.
Beyond Americus, though it's anybody's guess. Will folks flock to see a movie where John Denver doesn't sing snd George Burns doesn't smoke cigar?