A buoyant rom-com with a touch of fantasy, James Orr's Mr. Destiny (1990) treads on ground similar to It's A Wonderful Life, the perennial holiday classic ignored for decades after its release. It's a good-hearted film with a likable everyman: James Belushi stars as Larry "LJ" Burrows, a 35-year-old man who's kind of unhappy with his ordinary existence. He's married to high school sweetheart Ellen (Linda Hamilton), muddles through a mid-level office job, and his suburban home is nickel-and-dimed by a greedy contractor. On the surface he's doing fine, but LJ's inner malaise can be traced back to one fateful event: striking out in a pivotal high school baseball game, which has haunted him for 20 years.
Like Napoleon Dynamite's Uncle Rico, LJ blames that failed opportunity for his current problems and, while drinking alone at a bar one night, shares his regret with kindly bartender Mike (Michael Caine). However, "Mike" happens to be a spirit with the power to change time, and gladly obliges LJ by dropping him smack-dab in the middle of his new life in which he won that game. LJ's now absurdly rich and married to beautiful Cindy Jo (Rene Russo), heiress to the same company he formerly worked for and currently runs. Everything else is different, too: best pal Clip (Jon Lovitz) is now a cowering clerk, union organizer Ellen despises his leadership, and his parents are even divorced. It's a step up financially, but everything else about LJ's dream life just doesn't feel right...and it isn't long until he yearns for the good old days.
For starters, be assured that Mr. Destiny's somewhat cornball premise plays out better on film than it does on paper. The alternate universe setup and execution are capably done, asking a few clever questions while nonetheless enduring two or three major gaps in logic and probability. A few subplots don't quite work, such as the darker side of attractive co-worker Jewel Jagger (Courtney Cox), not to mention most of LJ's voice-over narration. Yet Mr. Destiny, like its protagonist, ends up coming out ahead on multiple occasions due to its old-fashioned heart and Belushi's confident "regular Joe" persona (which, in this case more than most, reminds me of a less cynical Bill Murray). By all rights, a film like this could easily fall flat on its face -- and judging by the chilly 1990 reception, maybe it did -- but Mr. Destiny has held up surprisingly well and features a great cast from top to bottom. There are more sleek and sophisticated comedies to choose from, but I'd definitely call Orr's film more of a hidden gem than a dusty old relic that's almost three decades old.
Like Taking Care of Business (also starring Belushi and released in 1990), Mr. Destiny's last home video release was a 2002 DVD from Disney by way of Mill Creek Entertainment. Kino's new Blu-ray serves up a solid upgrade...at least in the A/V department: we're treated to a fine 1080p transfer and lossless audio, even though the recycled extras aren't anything to write home about. Even so, this (essentially) movie-only disc is worth picking up for die-hard fans and newcomers alike, as Mr. Destiny's underdog spirit, cast, and solid replay value outweigh any negatives by a decent margin.
I haven't seen Mr. Destiny since the VHS days, so it was no surprise to discover how much more clean and crisp Kino's new Blu-ray looks than what I remember. This 1080p transfer has likely been sourced from a newer scan or better source material than Mill Creek's 2002 DVD, as the lack of dirt, edge enhancement, excessive noise reduction, and other such issues makes for an enjoyable viewing experience. Framed at its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, it features natural color balance, solid black levels, and modest film grain. Obviously, there's not a lot of visual flair: effects are kept to a minimum, and the bulk of this film is shot in suburban locales and office interiors. But like Belushi's performance, it pulls off the "everyman" routine without a hitch, and there's nothing wrong with that. Overall, it's about as great a transfer as we could expect for a mid-tier catalog title (if not slightly better), so that's great news for fans indeed.
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The DTS-HD 2.0 (Stereo) Master Audio mix, even without the heft and presence of a full-blown 5.1 track, likewise does the job nicely. Dialogue and effects are clear and balanced, while David Newman's score also makes its presence known -- the opening sequence, which features a 90-piece orchestra, is especially powerful. Channel separation is noticeable at times, but it's mostly a centered presentation that feels perfectly natural for the genre. Frustratingly, however, optional English subtitles are not included during the film, even at Kino's slightly higher-than-normal price point. What gives?
The static menu interface includes options for playback, chapter selection (eight total), subtitle setup, and bonus features, with quick loading time and few pre-menu distractions. As with most recent Kino catalog releases, this one-disc package arrives in a standard keepcase with poster-themed cover artwork and no inserts of any kind.
Just two carryovers from the 2002 DVD, including a lackluster Audio Commentary with director James Orr and actor James Belushi (a lot of dead space here, and you can tell that neither participant has seen the film in a few years) and the film's narrative-free and kinda awful Theatrical Trailer. Top tier entertainment it ain't, but Mr. Destiny deserves better.
James Orr's Mr. Destiny was a critical and commercial failure starring James Belushi...so at face value, I wouldn't expect newcomers to get all that excited. The thing is, it's an enjoyable little flick with a great cast and a fun premise that doesn't wear out its welcome, and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it this time around. Is it somewhat predictable? Sure. A bit too similar to films like It's a Wonderful Life (also ignored for decades)? Maybe. But Mr. Destiny covers the rom-com bases nicely, while its simple message and likable "everyman" performance from Belushi carry enough weight to make this worth watching. Kino's Blu-ray offers a welcome A/V upgrade from Mill Creek's 2002 DVD, although the recycled extras leave a lot to be desired. Recommended to fans and first-timers, but a rental might be enough.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work and runs a website or two. In his free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs, and writing in third person.