- Movie Rating -

Oh God!, Book II (1980)

| October 3, 1980

Oh, God! Book II is the story of how God came down to Earth and imparted his wisdom to a little girl and asked her to spread his message.  That’s a problem because it is the sequel to a movie in which God came down to Earth and imparted his wisdom to a grocery store manager and asked him to spread his message.  Did the message not take the first time?

The answer is easy.  Despite its title, Oh, God! Book II is not really a sequel, it’s more of a remake starring George Burns again doing the same thing with a different protagonist.  That’s not a terrible idea in and of itself.  With God, you could make infinite sequels but the problem is that the clever idea behind the first movie is not really something to expand on.  It was a simple idea, like a theoretical joke that one tells around the watercooler: What if God came to you and asked you to spread his message.

Oh, God! was a movie that was mounted on the idea that God was worried that he and his message were getting lost in the shuffle, that they were losing ground in a world that was moving too fast for its own good.  Of course, the mortal became the pariah of the high and mighty gatekeepers of what is considered holy, and so the whole thing ended up in a court room with God seated in the witness box imparting the perplexing question of how we could be so moved to believe the irreality of The Exorcist but wouldn’t be able to except the Supreme Being when he was sitting right in front of them.  It ended with a message that I thought was profound, beautiful and thought-provoking.

The sequel does the same thing, only not quite as well.  God returns and imparts his wisdom to a little girl named Tracy (Louanne) and asks her to spread his message, which inclines a PR campaign mounted on the slogan “Think God” but it doesn’t really have the same impact.  Mostly that’s because little Tracy seems to have problems of her own.  Her parents are in the middle of a marriage that is crumbling and Tracy is dealing with the pangs and prongs of growing up.  Why does she need this?  I’m not saying that God is misdirected in his efforts but it seems a little cruel to put this on a little girl who is going through the strains of life.  It seemed much less of a burden on Jerry Landers in the earlier film because he seemed to have been in a much more comfortable place.

Of course, the hammer that falls on Tracy comes from the adult world, from teachers, school administrators, psychiatrists, who think that she’s making all of this God nonsense up just to get attention.  My question is, why?  Why be concerned about a little girl who believes that she is in touch with the all-mighty?  It is really so bad?  That’s the through-line that doesn’t work.

What does work is George Burns whose approach to this role in both films is kind of wonderful.  He’s not the thunderbolt Lord that appeared in so many DeMille pictures.  He’s a kind of folksy Will Rogers-type who is always armed with ready-made horse-sense and good humor.  When asked by Tracy why he allows pain and suffering, his answer is simple but profound: it’s built into the system, just as we can’t have back without front or top without bottom, we cannot have good without bad.

I liked the scenes between God and Tracy and I kind of wish they were the whole movie.  Maybe just conversations between the two as Tracy was writing a book report, then maybe the film could follow Tracy as she grows up, imparting God’s wisdom and becoming a grand figure herself.  But the movie isn’t that confident.  All of the stuff with the teachers and child psychologist and administrators is unnecessary bulk to a film that should have been very simple.  We came to hear the wisdom of George Burns as God.  Those are the best parts of this movie.  So let it be done.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1980) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized