In many cases, a solid acting performance and likeable characters can often help an average plot rise to something special. It is possible for the converse to be true in that a very good storyline can succeed despite mediocre acting performances and not so likeable characters. It is this converse that is the case with the film "Pie in the Sky". "Pie in the Sky" was a film from 1996 that didn't garner a lot of attention. It proves to have a solid storyline and a very good lead character played by Josh Charles. However it is hampered by an extremely poor performance by John Goodman and an unlikable character played by Anne Heche.
The synopsis of the film deals with the story of Charlie Dunlap (played by Charles). We follow Charlie's life from his birth into young adulthood. Throughout Charlie's life, he has had an obsession with traffic. Growing up, he idolized traffic reporter Alan Davenport (played by Goodman). While he was growing up, he also struck a friendship with Amy Morgan (played by Heche). The two have a childhood crush on each other, they have a brief pre-College romance before actually breaking up once in College. Once Charlie graduates college, he goes to work for an insurance company until he receives a call from "Metro Traffic" in Los Angeles about a possible career opportunity. "Metro Traffic" is where Davenport currently works. Realizing this is his "dream job", Charlie races and relocates to Los Angeles to pursue this opportunity. Once in Los Angeles, Charlie is reunited with Amy who is now pursuing a career in dancing. After a chance meeting with Davenport, we see Charlie eventually land a job with "Metro Traffic" as Davenport's assistant. We then see Charlie attempt to gain a spot in the famed traffic helicopter and do some live reporting while trying to get his relationship with Amy back on foot.
"Pie in the Sky" tackles an area that hasn't been done much in films - the traffic industry. I can't speak for everyone, but as someone who drives in traffic day after day, I have seen little to no value in a traffic reporter. They aren't very entertaining, often miss areas of congestion - and have little to offer in solutions to get you to your destination. This is where I had a problem with the character of Alan Davenport. There simply aren't any Alan Davenport's out there. Traffic reporters have for years been throwing around buzz words such as "generally jammed" and not provided any value. It would be nice if there were more traffic reporters in the style of Davenport - but they just don't exist. Goodman's performance doesn't help much. I found Goodman to be guilty of "overacting" throughout the entire movie. He put more exaggeration into an already exaggerated type of character. I know I'm not the biggest Goodman fan, but I've seen better out of him. This was not one of his better performances.
Anne Heche's character of Amy Morgan didn't have me doing handstands either. While I can't blame Heche for the character, I just found the character irritating throughout the whole movie. We see the "sweet Amy Morgan" at the beginning of the movie. While she never turns into a vixen, I do think her character becomes more and more selfish throughout the movie. On the other hand, I did like the character of Ruby played by Christine Lahti. Ruby plays the landlord of Charlie's apartment building in Los Angeles. Charlie eventually becomes involved in an affair with Ruby. Not only did I find Lahti's performance to be very good, but I really enjoyed the character of Ruby. In a lot of ways, I almost felt like Ruby and Charlie had more chemistry than Amy and Charlie. This is not a good thing when the end result of the film is to get Charlie and Amy together.
While the movie's focus is around Charlie's obsession with traffic and his relationship with Amy, it is important to know that in the bigger scheme of things - this is really a biography of a fictional character named Charlie Dunlap. There is a chunk of the movie spent around Charlie's days as a child. We learn a lot about Charlie's argumentative parents - especially his father Mike. We eventually see a lot of Charlie's father rub off on Charlie when it comes to dealing with Amy . I think the film does a very good job at bridging this together. I also think that Josh Charles does a very good job with the character of Charlie Dunlap. He might not have been the big name star in this movie, but he left many of the name actors in the dust.
While I did find the overall story very entertaining, I found the ending to the music extremely unsatisfactory. The unfortunate thing is that a common scenario is used to eventually bring a conclusion to how Charlie and Amy end up (i.e. the race to have a last chance to meet the girl before she hops a plane overseas). I kind of felt the film could have gone another way to eventually bring Charlie and Amy together.
Overall, I realize I've mentioned a lot of flaws. But this movie still did provide good entertainment value. It provided the right mix of comedy, drama, and romance - and I think those elements are key when watching a movie. While I wouldn't nominate this movie for any awards, this is a movie I would definitely watch again. I wouldn't have even minded if they did a sequel (especially if they fix some of the short points I've mentioned). This movie is worth checking out.