Robert Downey Jr. and Ryan O'Neal in Chances Are (1989)

Downey's Dose of Déjà vu

Corinne (Cybill Shepherd) and Louie Jeffries (Christopher McDonald) are happily married but on their first anniversary their happiness is destroyed when Louie is killed in a car accident. For the next 20 years Corinne raises their daughter Miranda (Mary Stuart Masterson) who she was pregnant with at the time of the accident whilst oblivious to the fact that her best friend Philip (Ryan O'Neal) has been in love with her before she married Louie. Meanwhile Louie's soul is recycled and is now Alex Finch (Robert Downey Jr.) a medical student studying at the same college as Miranda who Alex is dating. But when Alex ends up meeting Miranda's mum Corinne not only do the memories come flooding back for Alex but so does the problem as it means he is dating his own daughter whilst still having feelings for Corinne which if things happened would mean Corinne stole Alex from Miranda.

That is a bit more than I tend to write for a synopsis but "Chances Are" needs that much to lead you to where the movie really gets good. The irony is that "Chances Are" doesn't take long to get there yet there is plenty of detail from Philip having always loved Corinne to the fact Corinne was pregnant. But the best bit up to this point is being taken up to limbo where having caused a scene Louie gets to jump the queue to be reincarnated but having caused a fuss they forget to wipe his memory.

Mary Stuart Masterson and Cybill Shepherd in Chances Are (1989)

So the set up is in place and jumping to the present where the easy going Alex meets Miranda and flirts with her and we get to the real interesting part as Alex finds himself in the catch 22 of dating his own daughter but realising he is still in love with Corinne. I won't mention what happens other than to say there is a lot of creative fun going on with the situation which is made more complicated by the fact Philip is still around and is still secretly in love with Corinne.

The thing about "Chances Are" is that Robert Downey Jr. makes the movie and when watched now there are scenes of almost silent comedy which makes you see why he ended up cast as Charlie Chaplin just a few years later. Downey not only delivers the humour but he also brings great appeal to the role which is what is called for because it makes Alex easy to like and feel for. But the likes of Shepherd, Masterson and O'Neal all play their parts equally well making for a fine ensemble for Downey to play off of.

What this all boils down to is that "Chances Are" is an entertaining take on the familiar reincarnation story with Robert Downey Jr. delivering a beautifully visual comedic performances but also a charming one.