Louie Jeffries is happily married to Corinne. On their first anniversary, he is killed crossing the road and is then reincarnated as Alex Finch. Twenty plus years later, fate brings Alex and Louie’s daughter, Miranda, together.
I first remember seeing “Chances Are” back in the early 90’s on VHS. Even back then, as a wee lad of about twenty, I remember enjoying it. At times, it is comical and light-hearted but never too schmaltzy or over-sentimental. And the reason it worked so well was because of the performances. Robert Downey Jr. has obviously come a long way in his career since then but here, he plays his part with a fresh-faced, wide-eyed wonder and it’s no surprise that he literally has two women chasing him throughout the entire movie. Cybill Shepherd was at the height of her career with the success of “Moonlighting” and Ryan O’Neal was a movie heart-throb throughout the seventies and eighties. Mary Stuart Masterson was coming off strong from her role in “Some Kind of Wonderful” so the whole cast was perfect for the film.
Louie (Christopher McDonald) is happily married to Corinne (Cybill Shepherd) and is best friends with Philip (Ryan O’Neal), who happens to be a reporter for The Washington Post. Louie is an attorney who is trying to put away one of the city’s biggest crime bosses, Anthony Bonino, but he keeps getting resistance from Judge Fenwick (Josef Sommer), who is presiding over the case. When Philip gives him an anonymous tip, Louie follows it up only to find out that Fenwick is working with Bonino and manages to snap a photo of the two of them together, with Fenwick accepting a bribe. As it’s their one year anniversary, Louie and Corinne have plans to have dinner together and while she is waiting for him, he turns up at the restaurant, eager to tell her the big news but crossing the street, he is hit by a car and killed.
Over twenty years later, Alex Finch (Robert Downey Jr.) is a budding reporter who tries to get a job at the Washington Post but is rejected because he has no experience. On his way out, he bumps into Philip and the two hit it off right away. Philip admires his tenacity in trying to get a job and invites him home for dinner. While there, he meets Miranda (Mary Stuart Masterson) but when he meets Corinne, they immediately feel like they’ve met before. Alex and Miranda hit it off but gradually, he begins having flashbacks of another life, where he knew Corinne and Philip. He then believes that he is reliving Louie’s memories and realizes that he must be Louie reincarnated. He has personal knowledge of Corinne and Philip and finally convinces them when he finds the photo of judge Fenwick taking his bribe.
This is all set up early on so we know the judge is going to eventually get his retribution but watching Alex freak out along the way, as he realizes that he has someone elses memories, mixed in with his own, makes for fun viewing. It’s not often that you see a movie these days that incorporates true love and God and heaven and friendship so watching “Chances Are” again after all these years was a nice treat. The film never takes itself too seriously and that’s a good thing. With so many diverse topics contained herein, it could have easily turned into a Todd Solondz-type movie, where everybody kills themselves but only after having sex with each other first. Cheerful and high-spirited was the best direction to take it, especially for Downey Jr. who was so young and charming and in a good place in his life, unaware of the dark period which was waiting for him right around the corner.
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