Larry Gelbart Ronald Goetz - Essay

Ronald Goetz

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[The] overall ambience of [Oh, God!] conveys a respect for God that hasn't been found in popular culture since Bill Cosby first began reporting on the construction of Noah's ark in his driveway ("Me and you, God, right?")…. [It is a film] that actually takes God seriously.

The film's premise is established early when Burns appears to an assistant supermarket manager, played by John Denver. The film's point of view is provided by Denver. The audience, which probably doesn't find much belief in God anywhere else—certainly not in a movie theater—is gradually invited to share with Denver his realization that God does exist….

Gradually the audience is invited to consider God's basic message: love one another, and use what you already have to save the world.

The film is simplistic in the extreme, reminiscent of those movies of the 1930s that sent Mr. Deeds to town and Mr. Smith to Washington. And it concludes with a courtroom scene that could have been lifted from the trial of Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th Street. But in the context of a film comedy, simplicity is appropriate. The viewing experience leaves audiences with a positive feeling toward life, suggesting ("Of course it couldn't be true, but what if God did exist?") that there is a way to live above greed, avarice and cynicism.

Oh, God! is good. In fact, within its context, it's great…. Moviegoers will find Oh, God! a stimulus to ontological discussion—as well as fun.

Ronald Goetz, "'Oh, God!' Is Good," in The Christian Century (copyright 1977 Christian Century Foundation; reprinted by permission from the November 23, 1977 issue of The Christian Century), Vol. XCIV, No. 38, November 23, 1977, p. 1085.