Time: 122 mins.
SYNOPSIS: A daredevil pilot, Pete (Dreyfus), has a hard time choosing between his love for his job putting out forest fires and his love for his dream girl (Hunter). He tries to be the man Dorinda wants him to be, but the thrill of flying is just too strong. Eventually her worst nightmare comes true, leaving her alone with her grief and Pete hovering between heaven and earth. As she moves on with her life and struggles to find the courage to love again, Pete is forced to watch and wonder what might have been. His attempts to stall her new romance from the other side bring unexpected results, finally showing him what true love is all about.
BOTTOM LINE: With Spielberg at the helm ALWAYS is a touch better than the original film from which it is based called A GUY NAMED JOE, which starred Spencer Tracy, Irene Dunne and Van Johnson. Mostly because the effects are better in the flying/firefighting scenes than they were able to create in 1945 (in which the actors played WW2 fighter pilots). Otherwise, it's the same romantically silly fluff, but with different actors trying to win the coolest girl on the planet...or at least in their general vicinity.
Dreyfuss and Hunter have great chemistry which, along with the flying sequences, makes the beginning of the film quite an enjoyable ride for both sexes, even though Dreyfuss isn't quite believable as a daredevil pilot. However, once Pete dies the story becomes somewhat clunky while we watch him try to make sense of his new "existence" and Dorinda's attraction to the hunky new pilot the gorgeous but dim Johnson. He lacks the charm and humor of Van Johnson's portrayal in the original, leaving one to wonder what Hunter's character could see in him beyond his strapping physique. You're supposed to feel good about her moving on, but it's hard to believe she'd be happy in the long term with someone like him after seeing her relationship with Dreyfuss.
While there are some truly touching, clever and funny moments in this section, since no one can see or hear Pete you quickly begin to wish that he'd literally see the light and end his (and our) suffering. I can only say thank God for John Goodman, who elevates the usual sidekick role and helps keep this soggy mess airborne. Dreyfuss captures the heartache of not being with Hunter, but the comedy of the situations feels more than a bit forced in these more modern times. The lightness and adventure of the first half is totally washed away by the heavy-handedness of the second as Spielberg tries to wring every tear possible from the viewer. The film has almost too much heart, but ultimately Dreyfus and Hunter make their love seem true and the slog through to a somewhat happy ending worth the trouble.