Simultaneously Steven Spielberg’s most personal film and his most tedious, this 1989 remake of A Guy Named Joe (1943), with the action transferred from World War II to a vaguely contemporary team of fire-fighting forest rangers, tells the story of a daredevil pilot (Richard Dreyfuss) who dies in an explosion, then returns as a ghost to guide a rookie pilot (Brad Johnson) in the air and into the arms of his own former girlfriend (Holly Hunter). John Goodman plays his best friend, and Audrey Hepburn is around briefly as an advising angel. After groping unsuccessfully for Only Angels Have Wings atmosphere with 1941 trimmings to frame its romantic love story, the movie settles down to some mawkishly earnest soul-searching, with Dreyfuss clearly standing in for Spielberg himself as a happy-go-lucky fellow who wants to do right by the people who go on without him. Despite the obvious sincerity of the project and the energy of both Hunter and Goodman, the disembodied quality of the production makes it far from involving: both the action sequences and the gags are surprisingly lukewarm for Spielberg, and the central dramatic situation — Dreyfuss hovering voyeuristically and paternally outside the action — seems too willed to flow naturally. This may qualify as Spielberg’s It’s a Wonderful Life on paper, but it never really gets off the ground. Scripted by Jerry Belson (Surrender); with Roberts Blossom and Keith David. (JR)

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