|My Blue Heaven|
|Written by Abbie Bernstein|
|Tuesday, 01 June 2004|
Reviewer’s note: I really hate dead animal jokes. They are, pardon the pun, personal pet peeve. There is a dead-pet gag that takes up prominent space in the first third of ‘My Blue Heaven,’ which admittedly prejudiced me almost from the start. Those who aren’t bothered by this sort of thing will likely find ‘My Blue Heaven’ a modestly amusing if not wildly inspired farce, competently directed by Herb Ross and scripted by Nora Ephron.
Narrated via title cards by Vinnie Antonelli (Steve Martin), ‘My Blue Heaven’ starts as Vinnie and his about-to-be-ex-wife are deposited in suburbia. Vinnie is a mob informant in the Federal Witness Protection Program, transplanted from New York City so that he’ll be safe while testifying against mob hit men. Vinnie’s wife takes one look at the scene and splits. Vinnie knows he can’t leave but, true to his nature, begins working every angle in sight. Poor FBI agent Barney Coopersmith (Rick Moranis) keeps trying to put his foot down, but he’s rarely a match for Vinnie’s wiles.
The premise is sort of a glorified sitcom that has some decent moments, but is largely predictable in its mismatched-buddy-tale beats. It picks up a bit when Barney finally asserts himself in Chapter 16. Kitschy music is well-seeded throughout. For sound effects, the chapters to check out are 27 and 28, though the gunfire is unspectacular (this is a comedy, not action). The film is considerably enhanced by wonderful color processing. Director Ross and cinematographer John Bailey go for rich hues and clean lines throughout, giving ‘My Blue Heaven’ a ‘50s Technicolor look.
Moranis, comfortably with playing prissy but good-hearted authority figures, is perfect for Barney. Martin has fine comedic timing, but he’s so clearly doing schtick that from scene to scene, the film comes to feel like a series of sketches. Someone like Joe Pesci, who doesn’t need to wink at the audience when playing wise guys, might not have altogether elevated the material, but at least the whole enterprise wouldn’t finally seem so quite so facetious.