Something of a return to form, “Oh, God! You Devil” is the third and final entry in the ‘Oh,God!’ trilogy and honestly, I kind of wish this series had just been a two film deal. Because what we have here doesnt surpass or even really match the first film in terms of themes, tone and humour. But it does at least try to do something quite different and I feel it mostly succeeds in what it sets out to do.
The film follows a struggling musicianBobby Shelton and his partner who are desperately trying to make ends meet while also trying to start a family. George Burns returns in a duel role as God and The Devil (known here as Harry Topher) Topher makes a deal with Bobby that in exchange for his soul, he’ll make him successful and famous beyond his wildest dreams. Bobby accepts and is instantly transformed into global rock mega star Billy Wayne, But Bobby realises that getting everything you want isnt always what you NEED and ultimately, He resorts to trying to find God to help sort things out.
The script for this is a nice change of pace over the previous two entries. We get a lot more George Burns, but we spend more time with him as Topher than we do as God. Same schtick, oppostie side of the fence, and that works for me!
The actual plot is a little less than steller. I appreciate they want to just, get to the main thrust of the action. But Bobby needed almost ZERO convincing that the actual Devil wants to help him, which did come across as a little bit unbelieveable, in essence this just borrows elements of ‘Its a wonderful life’ and pads it out with live performances and religion to help get it to the end zone.
Its not great, it’s not awful, and there was absolutely scope for this film to do more with what it established. but Im a firm believer in the old addage ‘You can have an original idea, but it needn’t be YOUR original idea’ and I think they handle the elemtns they ‘liberated’ from other movies rather well.
I dont think the script is anywhere near as charming, interesting or charismatic as the other two films. But it makes up for that with a bit of the boost on the humour front and a decent enough 3rd act that ties everything up satisfactorily.
The dialogues nowhere near as sharp as the other two movies, but again. It just about does the job and it was nice to see after the absolute onslaught of corporate images in the 2nd movie, that this thing is light on the product placement and a bit freer to discuss its subject. Though even at this point, I lament the loss of a more nuanced take on god as an abstract concept. at this point, they’re almost exclusively referring to a christian/jewish God and thats about it.
The direction is a definite improvement over the 2nd film, feeling a lot more nimble and competent. it feels like everyone involved had finally gotten into the groove of what these movies were about and the end result is an actually fairly above competent little feature that did surpass my expectations. Even the cast direction seems to be improved over the previous film as we shift away from stuffy tense office and city hall scenes with elongated discussions on whether our leading guy or gal is crazy, and instead we focus more on just giving the cast the space and tools they need to work with there set spaces creatively, and full credit to Ted Wass, as a leading man who pretty much has to carry the film for most of the 90 minutes, he really brings as much as he can to the role, and the director was clearly keen to work with that energy.
The cine is probably the best of all three of these movies, we decent creative lighting setups for most of the films runtime combined with wonderful attempts at playing with colour (Red and White are prominent throughout giving that nice subliminal ‘Heaven and Hell’ tonal check) shots are decently composed and blocked, theres a decent amount of B-roll to help keep sequences fresh, the edit is sweet as a nut and the end sequence features George Burns playing both God and the Devil in the same scene in one of the best uses of overlay/split film processing that i’ve seen in all of cinema. for an effect handled with NO CGI, I was honestly blown away.
The performances aaaaare a little on the shakey side, Ted Wass definitely has the energy and willing to try and bring his best to this and largely succeeds, but there were a few moments where this thing went a little too cheesy/schmaltzy for my taste leading to some overly hammy lines that wernt worth writing home about.
George Burns still delights, but of his two performances here I think I still prefer him as God. His turn as Topher isnt bad by any stretch, I just dont think Burns can play a villain that effectively. he’s too cuddly! But! When he’s on screen, I was having a good time, so I cant complain.
The rest of the cast just about hold the fort, broadly speaking it’s a definite quality improvement over ‘Book II’ but it’s still not quite as consistent as the original and a lot of the time, most of the cast felt like avatars. Just there to kind of assist in plot progression in the form of the odd stray line or there to fill space and not much else. Noone jumped out at me, non of them really defined themselves…they were fine…but thats about it.
All in all? While hardly an original concept for a sequel, I think they handled this one reasonably well. If you enjoyed the first one, my advice would be skip 2 and go straight into this. I dont think it’s quite as ‘Family Friendly’ as the other two entries (definitely NOT one to get the grandparents and the kids in for…) But I enjoyed it enough and would probably watch it again.
Oh! and because I wanna be helpful (and mild spoilers) if you havent seen this film before DO watch outif your sensitive to anything involving Overdoses or Suicide. because there IS some dealing with that stuff later on in this movie and it caught me off guard. As someone who knows people who do get triggered by that stuff, Im glad I watched this one solo.