‘Mr. Destiny’: It’s a More Wonderful Life 30 Years After This Movie
Mr. Destiny was not a film that stuck in many people’s minds in 1990, let alone 30 years later. Showbiz Cheat Sheet can attest that one 12-year-old future film critic declared Mr. Destiny his favorite movie ever, at least until he saw Memoirs of an Invisible Man a year and a half later. Since the film boasts a lineup that includes Courteney Cox, Rene Russo, Michael Caine, Jon Lovitz and Linda Hamilton, let alone Jim Belushi, perhaps a new audience can discover Mr. Destiny.
‘Mr. Destiny’ was a wonderful life in 1990
Larry Burrows (Belushi)’s car breaks down in front of a bar, so he regales the bartender (Caine) his woe story while he waits for a tow truck. Larry is married to Ellen (Hamilton) but he’s not happy with their contractor or their middle management job. He thinks his whole life would have been better if he hadn’t missed the home run pitch in his high school baseball game.
The bartender mixes Larry a drink that let’s him see what his life would have been like if he’d been the baseball hero. He’d end up marrying prom queen Cindy Jo (Russo) and become an executive at his company. Larry enjoys the luxuries and debauchery of that life, but misses Ellen, who now hates him because he’s the tight fisted boss of their company. Nevertheless, he uses his knowledge of their former life together to try to win her back.
‘Mr. Destiny’ was a very ‘90s fantasy
Today it might seem weird that a high school baseball game would have such a dramatic ripple effect in someone’s life. Keep in mind that in the ’80s and early ’90s, high school sports were given extreme weight. These days it’s easier for someone who’s not athletic to go online and find their tribe. Before the Internet, you either participated in school athletics or you were an outcast. To one of those outcasts, the idea that your life may have been better if you weren’t the star athlete was a reassuring message.
Today, it’s harder to see what Larry was upset about. He had a loving wife and a steady job. So his contractor was unreliable and he lives paycheck to paycheck. In the ’80s everything was about having more money and having more sex. Today people might appreciate having a stable income and loving home.
Even in 1990, Larry was committing adultery
So a middle school movie buff in 1990 liked that the movie said Larry was actually better off when he wasn’t a sports hero and met Ellen. Even back then, it was clear Larry was committing adultery in his Frank Capra fantasy.
He sleeps with Cindy Jo as soon as he gets to his new life. As far as he’s concerned he’s still married to Ellen! Then he goes after Ellen in the reality where he’s still married to Cindy Jo. Cindy Jo was by all accounts a loyal, loving wife in that world. Even if you say what Mr. Destiny is showing him isn’t real, Larry’s intentions still are.
Courteney Cox in ‘Mr. Destiny’
Before Friends made her a star, Cox would pop up in lots of eclectic roles, like the Bruce Springsteen “Dancing In the Dark” video. She starred in Cocoon: The Return. In Mr. Destiny, she plays Jewel, a woman who the corrupt Larry was having an affair with (so even in the Cindy Jo timeline he wasn’t faithful).
When Larry goes after Ellen, Jewel gets mad and stalks Larry with a gun. It’s extreme, but it adds to the film’s collective moral that his life was better the way it was. His fantasy ends up full of corruption to make him appreciate his real life.
‘Mr. Destiny’ 30 years later
So, how does Mr. Destiny play to a world where high school nerds are more likely to grow up to be rich tech geniuses than the star athlete is? Well, the general moral of the movie is good. Appreciate what you have. Whatever you think could be better may actually be worse. The baseball game is just a generic event, like anyone can imagine one event was the fork in their life’s road. It probably wasn’t, and even if it was, your life probably went the way it was supposed to.
Even when Larry tries to turn his new life back into his old one, it doesn’t quite work. He can’t suddenly make Ellen fall in love with him without the 15 years of history they had. He learns that the “successful” Larry was corrupt and he can’t undo that after 15 years. So not only was his life already better, but HE was a better person for going through disappointment and persevering. Apparently the new Larry also lost touch with his high school best friend (Lovitz) which is not something the original Larry would have done.
Unfortunately, Larry was still a horndog of the ’80s/’90s Belushi variety. That might make him harder to relate to in 2020, if his materialism already didn’t turn you off. Overall, Mr. Destiny is a fun, sweet movie about learning to appreciate what you have when the grass isn’t actually greener on the other side. At least he doesn’t commit a sex crime like Revenge of the Nerds.