Always Nice but not Much More
When Steven Spielberg directs a movie it is rarely anything other than entertaining and more often than not spectacular, yet with his 1989 movie "Always" starring Richard Dreyfuss, Holly Hunter, John Goodman and Audrey Hepburn it feels very much unlike your typical Spielberg movie, in fact it doesn't feel like a Spielberg movie at all because quite frankly it is ordinary. From the storyline to the special effects and the performances nothing really jumps out at you screaming "watch me". Instead "Always" drifts along at a sleepy pace, ending up as not a terrible movie just one that is pretty uninspiring.
Pete Sandich (Richard Dreyfuss - Stand by Me) is a hot shot pilot, a legend amongst his fellow pilots as he risks his life extinguishing forest fires from the sky much to the concern of love of his life Dorinda (Holly Hunter - The Incredibles) who anxiously waits each time for his return. Dorinda is not the only one concerned as best friend and fellow pilot Al (John Goodman - Confessions of a Shopaholic) also thinks it is time for Pete to throttle back and take up a safe position as a trainer. But when during a call out Pete comes to Al's rescue as his plane catches fire it is Pete who ends up dying and stuck in limbo as he meets Hap (Audrey Hepburn - Robin and Marian), an angel who tells him he is to guide those left behind and assist a hapless pilot in becoming a good fire-fighter.
Whilst "Ghost" came out in the following year it is hard not to mention a few similarities between that popular movie and "Always" as both has a loved one stuck in limbo having to guide those they left behind in moving on. But for me "Always" is just not in the same league and whilst a nice storyline it for me lacks energy; be it romantic energy or danger when it comes to the action. I say nice storyline but in truth "Always" is actually a remake of "A Guy Named Joe" which updates the storyline but doesn't really bring it to life. To put it bluntly "Always" probably is a good movie but despite trying to provide some laughs lacks energy to keep you glued to what happens and needed more urgency a harsher editing.
A knock on effect of this is that at just over 2 hours "Always" feels far too long, in fact painfully long as it drags its feet during several scenes. Not wanting to criticize Spielberg a man who knows more about movie making than I certainly do, but I do wonder whether his heart was really in it whilst making "Always" or whether it was some contractual agreement he had to fulfil, because it feels strangely out of character for the great director. Although in 1989 when "Always" was released he also had "Back to the Future Part II" and "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" on the go so maybe it was more of a filler between projects.
As for the performances from the stars well like the movie they feel slightly low level but adequate. Richard Dreyfuss who is a slightly strange choice as a heroic fire-fighting pilot, although the role was offered to Tom Cruise, manages to put in an adequate performance as Pete Sandich, with some moments which feature Dreyfuss's ability with wise cracking humour. Alongside Dreyfuss is John Goodman who gets to goof it up as his best friend Al, with moments of comedy which could have come straight out of a Tom & Jerry cartoon. Probably the best performance comes from Holly Hunter as Pete's love interest, Dorinda, a mixture of tom boy but with a girlie inside. Although due to the nature of the movie it's hard to pick up on any chemistry in any of the movies romantic moments. Also making nice appearances are Brad Johnson and the divine Audrey Hepburn in what was to be her last movie, although the latter is massively under used.
To be honest, there are no real problems with any of the performances in "Always", the problems arise from the characters themselves, they are just too boring. This makes the movie feel a little flat, as all the characters merge with no real differentiation between them.
What all this boils down to is that "Always" is a nice but pretty much uninspiring and unmemorable movie. It lacks the excitement and strong characters which it really needs to keep you watching, instead delivering a slightly lack lustre storyline which at over 2 hours is not in a hurry to go anywhere. It's not a terrible movie but with stars such as Richard Dreyfuss, Holly Hunter, John Goodman and Steven Spielberg directing you couldn't be blamed for expecting something more.