Movies I Love: My Blue Heaven (1990)

Steve Martin's best work!

One of my favorite movies all time was Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas”. It was Masterpiece Storytelling from a True Filmmaker. While I have loved most of films especially “Shutter Island” and “The Departed” recently, Scorsese’s last masterpiece was “Goodfellas”

“Goodfellas” was based on a biography about former mobster, Henry Hill who after being arrested for narcotics dealing and facing a life sentence, took a deal for full immunity and  became an informant against the mob disclosing every ill deed done by his crime family including confessing to murders he had done. Because of the deal and the potential backlash, the FBI placed him into Witness Protection though he has proceeded to continue a life of crime despite his second chance.

The writer of the book, Nicholas Pileggi collaborated with Henry Hill to write the book while at the same time also co-writing the screenplay to the movie with Martin Scorsese. He visited Hill in jail for another drug bust and wrote the book/screenplay.

While Pileggi had met with Hill, he brought his wife, Nora Ephron to his meetings with Hill. Nora, A screenwriter herself who had just wrote the seminal love movie/blockbuster “When Harry Met Sally”.

Nora inspired by the idea herself, decided to also write a movie based on Henry Hill’s story but go about it in a Goofball Comedy Fictional Movie take and that movie became “My Blue Heaven”.

“My Blue Heaven” is one of the most funniest movies I have ever seen and arguably Steve Martin’s best movie backed by a great supporting cast of Rick Moranis, and Joan Cusack.

“My Blue Heaven” is the story of reformed New York mobster, Vincent “Vinnie” Antonelli (Steve Martin) who while is an admitted criminal is somewhat principled  (doesn’t deal drugs nor hurt any innocent people) has turned into a rat for the FBI against the crime family he worked for. As a reward for his deal, he received “full immunity” and was placed into the FBI Witness Relocation Program with his wife.

They are relocated to a San Diego suburb, which is a complete 180 from their lives (There’s no frickin Italian places there nor Arugulas! and they are now known as Tod and Terri) and under the care of FBI Agent Barney Coopersmith (Rick Moranis). Vinnie is immediately bored and his wife who is pissed has decided to leave him.

Meanwhile Coopersmith is going through his own problems. He leaves a plain, boring life with no excitement. No one at his FBI office has any respect for him and he really only has 1 friend. His Psychiatrist wife sick of how square he is, leaves him for one of her patients

Vinnie immediately infuses himself to the community and people there are very interested in him because of his vibrant personality and italian charm and while he doesn’t like it at first, he starts to get used to it until he meets fellow Mobster friends who also joined the  Witness Relocation Program (he was a pallbearer to one of the fake funerals for one of them) and they plan to start a minor crime wave by hi-jacking trucks.

This gets to the attention of the local Uptight District Attorney, Hannah Stubbs (The amazing female comedic actor Joan Cusack, Sister of John) who wants to prosecute Vinnie for the crimes but Vinnie is so smart and smooth he is able to explain all the stolen goods he has including the  Italian Suits and Books he has (When she asks why does he need 25 books of the same book, he says “In case I want to read it more than once”).  Hannah is pissed but has nothing and in fact, the bailiff at the jail is in love with Vinnie because of his charisma. Coopersmith also intervenes because if Vinnie is prosecuted, the mobsters in New York he is testifying against will find him and kill him, so he stops her which angers Hannah and they don’t like each other from the start (c’mon you don’t have to know the movie to know Coopersmith and Hannah will be rockin da boots very soon).

Hannah is also leading a miserable life. She’s a divorcee with two sons.  Her cheating ex-husband (The Great Douche Comedic Character Actor, Daniel Stern) is pretty much a Douchebag who doesn’t respect her space, undermines her parenting and is late with the child support. She’s Coopersmith with Boobs and a giant pole up his ass. (If what I said last paragraph wasn’t a clue to them having sex I don’t know what is)

Vinny  notices Coopersmith’s loneliness and his shitty life and decides to help his new found friend. While going to New York to testify against his mob family, Vinny takes Coopersmith to his New York Tailor and tells him he has to dress better and be more confident in himself. They later in the movie proceed to dance the Merengue with a couple of ladies at a club with Coopersmith having the time of his life until Hitmen after Vinny try to kill him only for Coopersmith to save his life by scaring off the Hitmen by opening fire. Vinny immediately tells Coopersmith he is indebted to him and proceeds to take action to help his friend even more.

Vinny cleverly sets up Coopersmith and Hannah by suckering them into catching a ballgame together with Vinnie and Hannah’s boys, who immediately like Vinny because he teaches them how to protect their wallets and listens to them about how their little league ballpark sucks. Hannah and Coopersmith start to hit it off because of their mutual problems in life and decide to go on another date.

During this date which is at a Law Enforcement Party, Coopersmith and Hannah really become attracted to each other especially when Coopersmith sweeps her off her feet with his new found merengue dancing moves. While they hit it off, Vinny starts to see and “marry” a random lady he met at the Supermarket (though still legally married to his other wife).

Hannah knows it’s love, the next day when after they had a night of sex, her douchy ex-husband then walks into her house without knocking and Coopersmith who is aware of how he treats her decides to beat him up and tells him to use better manners.

A montage of events then happen which showcase Vinny, Coopersmith and Hannah’s new found happiness.

When a Hi-jacking went south because they robbed the wrong truck which has tons of those empty water cooler jugs. Vinny tells his mobster friends he has a plan. The plan is he wants to build a little league ballpark for Hannah’s kids to play.

He begins to collect the money by circulating the jugs around to local businesses and because of his infectious personality, people start donating by the thousands. Hannah suspects Vinny is full of it and has him arrested for Fraud.

This puts a wedge in her relationship with Coopersmith because this puts Vinny at risk to be killed though Coopersmith does not believe Vinny also when he visits him in jail to confront him and realizes Vinny has the jail under his palm where he’s allowed to move freely, use any phones and watch TV. Vinny insists to Coopersmith, he is telling the truth and that he is not a “bad” person and he hasn’t even fired a gun.

The trial happens, Coopersmith tries to beg the judge to free Vinny while Hannah insists he be prosecuted for his crimes. They are immediately interrupted in the court by the Hitmen trying to kill Vinny.

Vinny escapes with the Bailiff who has the hots for him and gives him her gun posing as his hostage and he immediately flees.

Coopersmith and Hannah give chase with the authorities and the Hitmen in pursuit.

Vinny ends up at the construction site FOR THE LITTLE LEAGUE  BALLPARK HE WAS BUILDING! (All Caps for effect). Hannah is skeptical but after a impassioned kinda dark story told by Vinny about being promised a red bicycle by his Uncle Francesco as a kid for Christmas only to be disappointed to find on Christmas Day his Uncle whacked under the tree and no bicycle, she believes him and reconciles with Coopersmith. The Hitmen come to kill Vinny, only for Vinny to pull some John Woo moves with the gun and wounds the Hitmen. Coopersmith realizes Vinny lied but let’s it go because he saved everyone

When they flash-forward, about a year later when the ballpark (dedicated under his real name) is open and the little league team dressed up like Vinny in red and yellow suits take the field. In between time, Vinny has written a best-selling book about his life (he was seen writing it during the film). Coopersmith and Hannah are in love with a child and Vinny has married the Bailiff and they are going to have baby themselves… Good times for all. It must be noted the brilliant subtlety of the scene, while Vinny was telling the truth about his intentions of the ballpark, he is also selling his stolen hi-jacked good in the stadium (Hot Dogs and Car Radios!)

The beauty of the this movie is the subtlety. It’s really a movie about loneliness under the guises of a screwball mob comedy. Vinny, Coopersmith and Hannah all at sometime during the film display their loneliness of their settings looking for changes/love in their life.

Another great touch in the movie was that each scene in the film was set-up by a “Title Card” that describes the events that will happen in the scene in one sentence, what you realize is this is actually the chapters in Vinny’s book that he is writing. How meta of the writer.

Well directed by Herbert Ross (who also directed two of my favorite films: “Footloose” and “Secret of My Success”) in terms of comedic timing and maintaining the vibrance and subtlety of Nora Ephron’s script. Nora Ephron would a few years later, write and direct the dramedy “Sleepless in Seattle” which would become a mega-blockbuster and a chick flick that makes my mom and million other ladies cry.

Steve Martin is at his “Screwy best”, you all know how I feel about Rick Moranis ( Joan Cusack are really great in it.

Originally, Steve Martin was going to play the Coopersmith role, with Arnold Schwarzenegger playing the role of Vinny until he had a change of mind and decided to play Detective John Kimble in “Kindergarten Cop”. I think it was for the best that didn’t happen, while I had no doubt Martin could play Coopersmith. I just don’t see Arnold pulling off the charismatic charm Vinny had that Steve Martin infused into the movie, I actually think it would’ve been a different movie he had did it. “Kindergarten Cop” was the better comedic showcase for Arnold and he made the right decision for himself.

I believe “My Blue Heaven” is available for Netflix Instant Streaming and it’s a must see comedy for comedy fans looking for shits and giggles 🙂 Enjoy!

-V. for Vinnie


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