Monday, March 05, 2007

Films of Michael Caine #58: Mr Destiny

Cast: James Belushi (Larry Burrows), Linda Hamilton (Ellen Burrows), Michael Caine (Mike), Jon Lovitz (Clip Metzler), Hart Bockner (Niles Pender), Bill McCutcheon (Leon Hansen), Rene Russo (Cindy Jo), Jay O Sanders (Jackie Earle), Maury Chaykin (Guzelman), Pat Corley (Harry Burrows), Douglas Seale (Boswell), Courteney Cox (Jewel Jagger).

Crew: James Orr (director), James Orr and Jim Cruickshank (producers and writers), David Newman (music), Alex Thomson (cinematography), Michael R Miller (editor), Michael Seymour (production designer).

Synopsis: Fifteen-year-old Larry Burrows strikes out and his team loses a championship baseball game. Twenty years later he still rues what happened, believing his whole life would have been better if he’d just hit the ball. On his 35th birthday Larry gets fired from his job at a sports equipment corporation when he discovers executive vice president Niles Pender is plotting behind the scenes to sell the company. Larry’s car breaks down on the way home. He enters a bar where the man serving, Mike, gives him a special elixir that rewrites history. Larry did hit the ball 20 years ago and became a hero. He is now president of the sports equipment corporation and married to the owner’s daughter. But Larry soon finds himself for his old life. He is framed for murder by Pender and flees, going back to the bar. After another drink of elixir, Larry’s old life is restored. He stops Pender selling the company and becomes executive vice president…


Limited information is available about this minor comedy starring James Belushi. Filming began in March 1990, with location work in North Carolina. Caine received third billing in the credits, but appeared in only a handful of scenes. He joined the production for this brief involvement after completing his starring role in A Shock to the System (1990). Curiously, this picture goes unmentioned in Caine’s autobiography and is also missing from several books by other authors about the actor’s life and career.

The film’s lead actress was Linda Hamilton, who had starred in The Terminator (1984) and the US TV series Beauty and the Beast. During an interview with Starburst magazine to promote her role in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, she made mention of Mr Destiny: ‘It was another mediocre movie. I’ve had more than my share of those. I’d just gone off to do Mr Destiny in North Carolina and T2 was offered.’ Mr Destiny featured early, minor roles for Rene Russo and Courteney Cox, both of whom would become well known actresses during the 1990s.

Mr Destiny was released to America cinemas as a PG-13 film in October 1990, grossing more than $15 million. The picture got mediocre reviews, with critics finding the central premise all too familiar. [Ironically, an inverted version of Mr Destiny’s plot was used a decade later for the film The Family Man (2000), starring Nicholas Cage.] In Britain the BBFC rated the film PG in December 1990, but Mr Destiny apparently went straight to video in 1991. It has since been deleted in the UK. A DVD version is available in the US.

Reviews: ‘Michael Caine, of course, is flawless … But the movie is a slow march through foregone conclusions.’ – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
‘Dim comedy with the dimmer moral that everyone gets the life they deserve’ – Halliwell’s

Verdict: This movie has got straight to video written all over it. B-movie regular James Belushi does his usual everyman routine in a tired, witless retread of Frank Capra’s vastly superior It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). That film showed how one man’s life touches the lives of an entire community. Mr Destiny shows that if Belushi had only hit one baseball, he could have been rich, adulterous and unhappy – all at the same time. Caine’s role is blink-and-miss-it material. This movie is strictly for Caine completists.

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