Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Oh, God!

US movie (1977). Warner. Pr Jerry Weintraub. Dir Carl Reiner. Screenplay Larry Gelbart. Based on Oh, God! (1971) by Avery Corman (1935-    ). Starring Ralph Bellamy (Sam Raven), George Burns (God), John Denver (Jerry Landers), Teri Garr (Bobbie Landers), Paul Sorvino (Reverend Willie Williams). 104 mins. Colour.

God, in the form of a little old man in a baseball cap, appoints supermarket assistant manager Landers to bring to the world his new message: that humanity can work things out if it wants to. Obtusely, God makes Landers' task as difficult as possible, giving to no one else any unequivocal sign of His existence until finally, when Landers is facing a slander suit brought by a corrupt evangelist to whom he gave God's message ("Shut up"), He manifests in court. Even then, witnesses prefer to believe their "common sense" rather than the evidence of their eyes and ears.

It is hard to convey the full blandness of this movie. The platitudinous utterances of the Almighty seem designed to lure the atheist-humanist vote, rather than the theist one. The movie comes to life only with Sorvino's chillingly comedic performance as a profiteering evangelist – but even this represents a flaw: if the message of the movie is that we should reject fundamentalism and bigotry, its argument is nullified in that it presents no serious advocate of the opposite case, only a caricature.

The movie was sequelled by Oh God! Book Two (1980), which is a yet more anodyne rehash, and by Oh God! You Devil (1984). [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.