Max is a selfish man who dies after being hit by a bus, and finds himself in Hell. The Devil's assistant, Barney Satin (Cosby) offers to spare him if he can get three other people to take his place (by tricking them into signing contracts for their souls). Max agrees at first, but as he gets to know his victims, he comes to regret his decision.
This film contains examples of:
- Berserk Button: When Barney reveals he had lied about a certain term of Max's deal with him, Max knowingly risks eternal damnation to save them from that fate.
- Card-Carrying Villain: Hell's operatives are definitely not afraid to play dirty when collecting souls. Lampshaded when Agent Hargraves reveals herself to Max.Max: That's entrapment! It's not fair!
Barney: "Fair"? Are you forgetting where you are?
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Hell resembles a corporate headquarters.
- Curse Cut Short: At the end, when Max realizes that he had save himself by saving the three:Max: I beat that lousy, rotten slimy son of a bi—!
Penny: Beat who?
Max: Barney. I beat Barney!
- Even Evil Has Standards: Because Max wants the children to live out their natural lives, Barney's demand that he take their souls now pushes him to pull a HeelFace Turn.
- Family-Unfriendly Violence: Described in graphic and hellish detail even for a Disney movie by Barney when threatening Max.Barney: Burn those contracts, and eternal damnation is YOURS! You'll know the UNMITIGATING PAIN AND HORROR of limbs being torn from their sockets—YOUR limbs, YOUR sockets! You'll feel pain you NEVER imagined in your life—yours, forever! Flesh you'll smell burning—YOUR flesh, ROTTING FOREVER!
- Faustian Bargain: Barney Satin offers to restore Max Devlin to life if he gave him the souls of three children within a month.
- Foreshadowing: When he first appears, Barney hints at Hell's pride in dirty tricks in the name of collecting souls. He attempts to use dirty tricks himself later on, after all three of his target souls have been secured.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Max burns the kids' contracts, yelling to the Devil that he'll never take them! NEVER! Subverted a few scenes later when, as he says his final goodbyes to the youths he had gotten to know through the contracts, he passes a mirror by chance and finds out that Redemption Earns Life.
- I Lied: Barney, after Max fulfills his Deal with the Devil. This pushes Max's Berserk Button so hard he actually destroys the contracts.
- Magical Negro: Barney Satin who provided Max with supernatural powers.
- Louis Cypher: Barney Satin. Now what other word does "Satin" resemble?
- Redemption Earns Life: As Max found out by chance when he passes by a mirror and sees his own reflection, realizing that he actually beat the Devil by choosing to preserve the kids' souls over his own and that his selfless sacrifice deemed him unworthy of hell. He doesn't forget to thank God for His wonderful mercy during a concert held by one of the youths at the end of the film.Max: Thank you very much.
- Sadistic Choice: "Burn those contracts, and eternal damnation is YOURS!" Of course, considering Max knew he'd be going back to Hell anyway when he died and his top priority now was keeping the three alive, he decided he may as well get his eternal damnation over with and burned the contracts anyway. To even his own surprise, he managed to get the Devil off his back forever in doing so.
- Scary Black Man: Barney Satin, especially when he goes full devil near the end.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: What happens to the kids after they sign the contracts.
- Took a Level in Kindness: Part of Max's Character Development, coming from the time he spends with the kids changing him to the point that he burns the contracts to save them at the risk of eternal damnnation.