Back in 1959, Penny (Alfre Woodard) a hardworking single mother, a singer with stage fright named Harrison (Charles Grodin), the lovelorn Julia (Kyra Sedgwick) and a small-time con named Milo (Tom Sizemore) all die when their driver Hal (David Paymer) drives off an overpass. Meanwhile, Thomas Reilly (Robert Downey Jr.) is born at the same time as the four passengers’ souls must stay on Earth and take on Thomas as their friend, which eventually makes him think that he’s insane.
Thirty-four years later, Hal returns to use his bus to take the four souls to heaven, as long as they finally achieve their goals. Penny must find out what happened to her kids, Harrison must sing in public, Julia must find her ex-boyfriend John and confess her feelings, and Milo must return the stamp book he stole. They need Thomas’ help but now he’s a driven banker who doesn’t care about people and keeps himself closed off from his girlfriend Anne (Elisabeth Shue).
Of course it all works out, but the real surprise is that director Ron Underwood was the first assistant director on Tourist Trap and would go on to make Tremors. This had four people working on the story — Gregory and Erik Hansen (whose short film was adapted to make this full-length version) and S.S. Wilson and Brent Maddock, the team who wrote Tremors.
I love that Julia is a waitress at The Purple Onion, a real San Francisco club where so many comedians performed. When Bob Newhart is seen on stage, that’s his son Robert William Newhart.
This is one of Becca’s favorite movies and we’ve watched it so many times on bad quality VHS rips and on DVD. It’s so great to have the Mill Creek blu ray of this with really fun retro VHS packaging. You can get it from Deep Discount.
You can listen to Becca and me discuss this on our old podcast.