Oh, God! Book II, 1980 – ★★★

The sequel to ‘Oh,God!’ struck me as a bit of an unnecessary addition. The first film ended quite succinctly and it very much felt like the joke had run its course by the end. So, while im kind of happy that ‘Oh, God! Book II’ DOES manage to do some things quite well. It fundamentally isnt as good as the original and feels quite stunted on almost all fronts by comparison.

For a starters the plot is more or less a re-run of the first film, but with a bit more of a ‘Miracle on 34th street’ slant, as we follow a young girl called Tracy who’s been chosen by God to carry the message forward and, using her knowledge of advertising due to her fathers work. She starts the ‘Think God’ campaign, which ultimately ends up with her being expelled from school and running the risk of being comitted.

From the off, this film feels a lot less nuanced than the first film, the idea of God as a kind of all encompassing abstract concept is more of a lip service point here, because running just beneath the surface its clear this has a much broader christian slant to it than the previous movie. Its also immediately apparent that the success of the first film has meant the execs behind this film have put a much tighter grip on this thing, neutralising a lot of the more subtle elements established in the first film and opening the doors to a much more AD friendly slant on the series, With NBC and Mcdonalds getting their claws into this thing nice and tight.

In fact, thats pretty much what this film is, a remake of the first film, but from a much more commercially friendly angle. The film pretty much disregards the first movie and it’s attacks on false preachers, religious diversity and a falible god in favour of giving us a much more sickly sweet and tacticle picture aimed at making money over anything else.

George Burns isnt in this film nearly as much as he was in the first film, and his place we instead get an elongated story of a little girl with divorced parents who manages to start a pro god movement at her school that hits every stereotypical trope going ending in an almost shot for shot remake of the end of the first movie and a slushy sickly ending stapled on. The cynic in me feels compelled to note that I think they realised the first film drew in a lot of grandparents, so they went with the kid angle to try and cement that audience, I feel unsuccessfully.

The pacings not bad on this thing, it has a clean 3 acts that transition nicely, but everything in the script for this thing feels like its been dumbed down a level, there isnt as much theistic discussion, the philosophy angles are thrown out the window, and theres nothing really meaty here for the cast to get into. We’re basically just left with a fairly middle of the road experience thats still watchable and does have several enjoyable moments. But just felt like a bit of a comedown after the first movie.

It also doesnt follow the continuity from the first movie all that closely, and there are points in the plot for this thing where it asks me to suspend my disbelief a *little* too hard. the idea of the entire world uniting under a slogan like ‘Think God’ especially in an age without the internet and ESPECIALLY in what is effectively a 2-3 week IN WORLD window…yeahhh it’s asking a bit much there.

The direction is of standard, but I dont feel is quite as strong as the first film, the first film was ‘of standard’ but didnt really experiement, this films ‘of standard’ buck back sliding into irrelevence. I also feel the cast direction isnt as strong here as the original, theres a lack of vibrance and animation within the cast that the first film had. The first felt almost like a bit of a tongue in cheek look at the real world, this feels much more grounded and as such all the ‘godly’ shenanigans that took the first film over the edge into a fun and lighthearted place, just kind of feel a bit weird and out of place here.

The cine does get a bit of a boost however! theres some more interesting visual effects for transitions now which is a BIG boost over the effects of the first film, the compositions feel a bit more cinematic and this is absolutely a more colourful picture all things considered. But it feels, for lack of a better word, a bit less personal. The Carl Reiner original felt like it had a little bit of Reiner’s DNA embedded into the shot types, sequences building, script and scenes. Here it feels a bit colder by comparison. Less like theres a unified voice behind it and more like it’s a property thats being worked on. which is a bit of a shame.

Performances are a bit of a mixed bag too, George Burns still delights whenever he turns up, but I feel both like he has less to say here of interest, less comedy to work with and just genereally it doesnt feel like he’s on screen as much. Which is a real shame as he’s easily the best part of the first film. While I wont talk about our leading lady for this feature in too much detail (I try to avoid critiquing child actors where possible) I think she did fine enough and brought a lot of character to the role. Though, I do have reservations about them making the main character a child here. The reason why John Denvers character worked so well in the first film was that he was a non believing, but smart adult who needed convincing. That was part of the fun. That even when his character WAS finally won over by Gods existence, he still didnt well and truely believe.

Here, they just introduce George Burns as god, he does a couple of parlour tricks and Tracy becomes a devout believer. it pretty much kills any kind of depth the performance could have had right out of the gate. The supporting cast also do alright, but again, broadly speaking, it feels like a step down from the first movie. the cast here are to push the narrative forward for the main cast and nothing else, whereas the first film not only did that, but made the characters feel like they were somewhat deeper than plot progression pawns.

The sountracks also largely recycled from the first movie, and it just occured to me that the theme for this series sounds eerily familiar to the score for ‘Theater of Blood’…So…now when I think fo this film, i’ll also be thinking about Vincent price.

Ultimately…Eh…If the first film was one i’d happily put on with my entire family for a good time, this ones one that i’d put on, watch for 20 minutes then dip in and out of. Its a grandparent movie. the kind of ‘nice enough’, inoffensive fluff piece that someone can half watch and come away with a smile. But if you ACTUALLY sit and watch the whole thing with any kind of awareness of the first film and an analytical mind. I think you’ll start to wander a bit by the halfway point. Fun. But imperfect.

source https://letterboxd.com/tytdreviews/film/oh-god-book-ii/

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