Steve Martin is a mobster in witness protection awaiting to testify against a powerful New York crime boss. Rick Moranis is the FBI agent assigned to make him comfortable in his new suburban setup – which is not going to be easy.
The mobster and G-man find a bit of common ground when both their wives leave them. However, Martin’s outgoing, flamboyant behavior is a complete contrast to Moranis, but perhaps they both can learn a thing or two from each other. Along with providing the audience with some laughs.
This was the third time Martin and Moranis teamed onscreen together (Little Shop of Horrors, Parenthood). They would share the screen one more time in Martin’s L.A. Story. Although that was more of a cameo appearance by Moranis.
These guys were on fire during the 1980’s. Each had done so many great movies, along with television appearances. To this day they remain two of my favorites. How can anyone not like Martin and Moranis is something I could never understand.
I guess it was around 1990 where that roller coaster of comedy started to stall out for them. Oh sure, they both continued to still work throughout the remainder of the decade, but their hits became much fewer.
My Blue Heaven is a fun little comedy. It’s not spectacular and it’s not on the high end of either of their movies, but I do think it’s slightly underrated. It might not be enough to make it land on your favorites list of Martin and/or Moranis films, but it has enough entertaining scenes that will make you walk away with a slight smile on your face, which is thanks mainly to our two funny men leads.
The story is ripe for comedy. A dark-haired Martin plays a very animated Italian mobster and Moranis is the by-the-book FBI man tasked as his babysitter. The comedic sparks start to fly just with them standing next to each other! Sure, there’s plenty of those predictable kind of jokes – ‘oh the meek FBI nerd has to reign in the rambunctious, loud mobster’ – but it still pays off with some laughs.
My Blue Heaven has often been mentioned in the same breath as Goodfellas. How? Well, the ending of Scorsese’s gangster classic with Henry Hill being sent off to anonymous suburbia in witness protection almost feels like it’s been picked up here and the story continues as a silly comedy.
It could make an offbeat compendium to that flick – as long as you realize it’s a completely different take on that setup.
It’s not that much of a stretch to make this connection between Goodfellas and My Blue Heaven when you learn that the original book Wiseguy that was the basis for the film Goodfellas was written by Nicholas Pileggi who was married to Ephron who wrote the screenplay for My Blue Heaven.
It was said often times the pair were sharing the same research for their wildly different approaches to stories based on the real life Henry Hill. So as nutty as it might sound there is a line to be drawn between the two movies. It’s kind of amusing to think how Martin’s Vinnie Antonelli would have worked in the Scorsese film. I don’t see him lasting too long had he been involved with Pesci, Deniro and Liotta pulling off the Lufthansa heist.
And that image of rough, serious New York Italian mobsters and how we associate how they live and behave provides a lot of the funniest moments in this.
One of my favorites is when Martin meets up with former colleagues who have also been sent into witness protection and are now living in this nightmare of suburbia. Rather than all getting together for a rich pasta meal in a more expected Italian restaurant, they’re relegated to hanging out at a Denny’s-esque type of restaurant for lunch. It just looks so absurd and wrong. Everytime I see that scene I can’t help but laugh.
It’s that kind of stuff where the movie hits the mark with this idea – Martin’s mobster adapting to his suburban surroundings. Watching him goto the supermarket, browse through strip malls. One of the most amusing subplots is him scamming donations for the local little league team. It’s Martin in his shiny suits wandering around in middle America with his exaggerated walk and voice that I think are the real highlights of My Blue Heaven.
He seems to be relishing playing this over-the-top character. Everyone else kind of gets lost in his wake. Moranis is likable and reserved and it is amusing seeing them play off each other. The story is not really anything special and doesn’t result in truly hysterical scenes. It kind of all goes down in very expected ways.
There are diversions with Moranis romancing town DA Joan Cusack, Martin encountering Carol Kane, some cutting loose dancing montages, Martin getting back into criminal activity, leading up to him avoiding getting killed and testifying.
It all doesn’t result in a great comedy, but there are amusing bits. It plays pretty safe and innocuous and really doesn’t go anywhere truly unexpected with the story. This all could have come together better with a stronger story that the premise deserved and had been really hysterical, but it just settles in ‘The OK’ category.
So, it doesn’t manage to necessarily hit a homerun, but thanks to Martin and Moranis, who are eagerly game to please and make a great pair, make this an entertaining enough time. It also offers enough funny quotes – mainly by Martin – that will fans repeating them.
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