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Heavens Above! Reviews

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Anthony L

Super Reviewer

August 17, 2011
Heavens Above! is a fine example of early Peter Sellers post Goons. It's very funny and its cynicism has quite a contemporary quality about it and you can see why it is said that it is ahead of its time. Unfortunately it gets rather silly towards the end and the unfortunate spells of racism very much dates the rest of the film.
rubystevens
rubystevens

Super Reviewer

September 8, 2008
classic charming british satirical comedy with peter sellers as a young vicar trying to bring christian charity to an uptight parish. it makes me smile :)
Eric B

Super Reviewer

September 16, 2008
Unjustly obscure, "Heavens Above!" is among Peter Sellers' essential movies. But beware, fans of droll British satire: You'll have to forgive an absurd ending which taints the entire film.

Sellers plays Rev. John Smallwood, a guileless prison chaplain who, by mistake, is summoned to the small community of Orbiston Parva. The town's revenue depends on a factory that produces Tranquilax, a dubious remedy that is a sedative, stimulant and laxative all at once. A perverse comparison is drawn between this "three in one" panacea and the Holy Trinity.

It's unclear whether Smallwood is a righteous thinker or just a simpleton who lucked into a virtuous path (shades of "Being There"'s Chance Gardener). But his gentle admonitions shock a hypocritical population accustomed to lazy, unearned feelings of godliness. Most residents are furious and call for his dismissal, but he does reach the matriarch of the town's wealthy, dominant family. Fearing damnation, she begins an extravagant charity program that frustrates shopkeepers and quickly unbalances the local economy. Meanwhile, passing comments from Smallwood's sermons hurt Tranquilax's credibility and cut into its profits. Can Orbiston Parva survive this disastrous dose of spirituality?

"Heavens Above!" takes shots at quite a few targets, from religion to capitalism to class divisions. It's a notably bleak portrait of humanity -- even the poor people are corrupt and ungrateful. There are some nice supporting performances, particularly Brock Peters' turn as a good-hearted garbageman, but Sellers carries the film with a brilliantly understated characterization. Beyond one pratfall into an open grave, he scarcely does anything "funny" in the film and yet "Heavens Above!" is indeed a comedy. It's just too bad that a farcical conclusion wholly violates the film's established, low-key tone.
January 8, 2013
Overlong, cynical British comedy has a low-key Peter Sellers performance.
February 10, 2013
Peter Sellers once again knocks it out of the park with bringing to life a super nice cheerful priest who just wishes to do God's work and the film looks at the realistic fallout of such deeds
PetrosTser
August 31, 2012
"Heavens Above!" is the story of Jesus Christ II in the form of John Smallwood (Peter Sellers). The film is filled with symbolisms and is a little too self-serious, but offers some laughs, good acting (Sellers, Cecil Parker, Bernard Miles) and the classic gag of Sellers accidentally tripping into a grave. Overall, it's an enjoyable if not particularly special little film that would probably have been better if it had left the preaching aside.
Eric B

Super Reviewer

September 16, 2008
Unjustly obscure, "Heavens Above!" is among Peter Sellers' essential movies. But beware, fans of droll British satire: You'll have to forgive an absurd ending which taints the entire film.

Sellers plays Rev. John Smallwood, a guileless prison chaplain who, by mistake, is summoned to the small community of Orbiston Parva. The town's revenue depends on a factory that produces Tranquilax, a dubious remedy that is a sedative, stimulant and laxative all at once. A perverse comparison is drawn between this "three in one" panacea and the Holy Trinity.

It's unclear whether Smallwood is a righteous thinker or just a simpleton who lucked into a virtuous path (shades of "Being There"'s Chance Gardener). But his gentle admonitions shock a hypocritical population accustomed to lazy, unearned feelings of godliness. Most residents are furious and call for his dismissal, but he does reach the matriarch of the town's wealthy, dominant family. Fearing damnation, she begins an extravagant charity program that frustrates shopkeepers and quickly unbalances the local economy. Meanwhile, passing comments from Smallwood's sermons hurt Tranquilax's credibility and cut into its profits. Can Orbiston Parva survive this disastrous dose of spirituality?

"Heavens Above!" takes shots at quite a few targets, from religion to capitalism to class divisions. It's a notably bleak portrait of humanity -- even the poor people are corrupt and ungrateful. There are some nice supporting performances, particularly Brock Peters' turn as a good-hearted garbageman, but Sellers carries the film with a brilliantly understated characterization. Beyond one pratfall into an open grave, he scarcely does anything "funny" in the film and yet "Heavens Above!" is indeed a comedy. It's just too bad that a farcical conclusion wholly violates the film's established, low-key tone.
November 1, 2011
Reveals hypocracy in the church without being offensive to believers. Very funny and relevant.
January 18, 2011
Funny early Peter Sellers comedy regarding the inadvertent catastrophe caused by the wrong vicar accidentally appointed to a snobbish parish. Great performance by Sellars before he became the superstar of "The Pink Panther" and "Dr. Strangelove," but unfortunately the ending left me a bit disappointed. Some great themes and social satire felt wasted by the ending.
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