Whether or not you’re much of a fan of Nora Ephron’s romantic comedies, My Blue Heaven is one of those must download movies for anyone who likes great comedies. Lately she’s fallen into a habit, with movies like Bewitched, of trying to repeat When Harry Met Sally by simply… Remaking it, more or less. It’s always the same old stuff, the same outdated dating jokes that were funnier twenty years ago. But My Blue Heaven shows that, when she wants to be, Nora Ephron can be an incredibly funny writer.
Steve Martin and Rick Moranis co-star as, respectively, a made man from the New York mafia currently in the witness protection program, and an FBI agent protecting him from the goombas that would have him whacked. Martin is sent to a picturesque small American town, so it’s your standard fish out of water story, but because it’s done very well this time, it works, it’s funny and it feels relatively fresh. It all comes down to how the story is told, and this one is told well enough.
Of course what really matters is… The movie is funny. Steve Martin hits all the right notes, even the jokes that probably didn’t read all that great in the script, Moranis and Martin have that perfect comedic instinct that helps salvage mediocre material and really knock good material out of the park. The typical odd couple relationship is lent a lot of extra mileage by two funny performers who know how to make the most of material with potential.
Martin quickly takes over the entire small town after meeting up with some fellow protected witnesses. You’d think it might get unpleasant watching a bunch of truck hijackings and robberies in the middle of a light hearted comedy, but they actually manage to make it sort of cute and innocent. It doesn’t feel like mafia stuff, it feels like a grown up version of the Little Rascals getting into mischief.
Interestingly, while the movie does get into some violent subject matter, it never really “gets ugly”. The violence always winds up being funny rather than frightening, which is nice, since it can be difficult to film violence in a comedy just right so as not to disturb the audience. No matter how gritty it gets, though, the movie stays funny against all odds.
One of the movie’s other big sources of laughter comes from Steve Martin’s philandering. He starts the movie with a wife, gets a girlfriend, and then gets another girlfriend. It’s a lot of fun watching him effortlessly juggle three women. He’s a crook, but such a likable crook that you really don’t hold it against him when he lies, steals and cheats on three women at once.
There’s a great, dreamy look to the film with clear blue skies and green pastures, that iconic, picturesque American small town landscape. This really serves as a nice contrast to the urban, gritty environment which Martin typically finds himself more at home in.
It may not be one of the greatest films ever made, but it’s certainly one of Ephron’s best, every bit as funny as When Harry Met Sally, but also focusing on more interesting subject matter than the same old dating jokes that don’t really hold true for anyone out of their mid twenties.