Chances Are (1989): Emile Ardolino’s Fantasy Comedy

This whimsical fantasy comedy is not particularly well directed by Emile Ardolino, but it is well-acted and contains some funny and amusing moments.

The twisty, unpredictably scenario is written by the “Mystic Pizza” scribes, Perry Howze and Randy Howze.

At first, it seems that the handsome young Washington attorney Louie Jeffries (Chris McDonald) has it all: a promising career, a beautiful wife, and a baby on the way. But after discovering a local judge is in cahoots with the Mob, Louie gets in a car crash and finds himself in Heaven.

Unsatisfied with the customer service he’s receiving, Louie jumps gets himself reincarnated — before being administered the magic injection that will remove all memories of former life.

Louie’s museum curator wife Corinne (Cybill Shepherd) remains faithful to her husband’s memory, ignoring the frustrated devotion of Louie’s best friend, Philip Train (Ryan O’Neal, miscast).

Meanwhile, Louie’s soul grows up in the body of Alex Finch (well cast Robert Downey Jr.), an aspiring, eccentric journalist. Alex’s memories of his life as Louie return, after he becomes romantically involved with Miranda (Mary Stuart Masterson), the daughter he never got to meet.

Alex/Louie begins romancing his wife, spurning his daughter’s advances, and frustrating Philip’s attempts finally to woo Corinne.

Ardolino, who did an excellent job with the 1987 sleeper hit “Dirty Dancing,” lacks the light touch that the fluffy material calls for.

Downey and Masterson are suitably quirky, and Cybill Shepherd and Ryan O’Neal have their good moments, too.

Despite decent reviews, “Chances Are” didn’t score well at the box office, unlike other comedies of reincarnation that were very popular in the 1980s.

The soundtrack, however, generated the Oscar-nominated hit, “After All.”

Oscar Nominations: 1

Song: After All, music by Tom Snow, lyrics by Dean Pitchford

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context:

The Best Song Oscar went to Alan Menken and Howard Ashman for “Under the Sea,” from the musical “Little Mermaid.”


MPAA Rating: PG

Running time: 108 Minutes.

Director: Emile Ardolino