Narrator Jim Dale takes us right into the life of young Ned. Here's what we discover through the initial few scenes and voice over:
As a 10-year old boy, Ned discovers the power of touch: when he touches his recently deceased dog, Digby, the Golden Retriever pops back to life. At first, Ned doesn't think much about this gift, using it to awaken random flies or animals from time to time. A major reason why the boy isn't so fascinated? Because all his attention is on next door neighbor Chuck, the adorable girl of his dreams.
But then fate intervenes: Ned's mother drops dead. Therefore, naturally, the boy uses his ability to raise her from this unfortunate state. After she's awake for more than a minute, though, Chuck's dad loses his life - and Ned realizes: if he allows the dead to come back to life for more than one minute, someone else goes to heaven in their place.
That's traumatic enough for a child, but it gets worse: later that night, Ned's mom kisses him goodnight... and dies once more. This time, the boy cannot revive her - and he realizes something else: one touch life; second touch, death.
At the funeral for their respective parents, Ned and Chuck share their first (and last) kiss. She goes off to live with her aunts, Lily and Vivian, as we fast forward 19 years (and some months, days and hours... but, come on, we can't be expected to remember all that, can we?): Ned is now a pie maker who owns a restaurant called The Pie Hole. His lead waitress is Olive Snook, who harbors a not-so-secret crush on her boss.
Digby is still alive, but Ned cannot pet him, of course. We also meet a new character: Emerson Cod. He's a private investigator who sees Ned's gift in action after a suspect he's chasing falls prey to the pike maker's magical touch. An agreement is reached between Emerson and Ned: the latter would awaken murder victims for one minute, find out who killed them, touch them again... and then the pair would collect the award.
It's all going fairly well, until fate drops by again: Emerson and Ned see a news report about a dead woman who was thrown from a cruise ship. It's Chuck. The investigating duo head to Ned and Chuck's hometown to do their thing, but Ned asks to speak with his childhood crush alone. When he does, he discovers two things:
- Chuck doesn't know who killed her, just that she was strangled from behind by a plastic bag;
- Ned can't bring himself to touch her a second time.
As a result of the second point, the funeral director drops dead (it's okay, he was a very, very bad man anyway). So now we have Ned and Chuck back at Ned's apartment, where Ned explains how it all works. They can never, ever touch each other. From here, we're taken to a quick overview of Chuck's life:
She lived with her shut-in aunts, not seeing much of the world. She harvested honey for the homeless, in fact. Seriously. Looks like she also has some guts, as she wakes up in the morning and informs Emerson and Ned that she wants to help find out who killed in her. In exchange, they'll all split the reward money of $50,000. While Emerson isn't pleased that his partner kept Chuck alive, he's certainly willing to profit from this loyalty, love and guilt (remember, Ned did sort of kill Chuck's dad).
Everyone following along? Good. Because here's where the case goes from there:
Chuck admits that she was aboard that cruise ship because she had agreed to help smuggle a pair of antique monkey statues in return for a free ride. (The girl needed to experience something outside her boring life with her aunts.) Of course, it didn't go so well, seeing as she was killed and all. When the trio treks to the travel agency to speak with the person who put Chuck up this adventure, they find her dead... also killed by a plastic bag. Through Ned's trick, though, the threesome figure out that the killer never got the monkeys.
And they've been shipped to Chuck's next of kin: Vivian and Lily. These two were a winning synchronized swimming team until Lily's eye was lost in a tragic kitty litter accident.
Emerson, Ned and Chuck go to the aunts' house. Chuck has to remain in the car, but the former two go in and nicely grill the aunts about the piece of luggage that was shipped to them by the cruise company on behalf of their - supposedly - deceased niece. Chuck can't just sit there, though, so she sneaks upstairs and actually removes the monkeys from the suitcase. As she retreats back to the deck, however, and Lily comes in to fetch the luggage, a masked man throws a plastic bag around the one-eyed aunt's head.
When Ned goes to check on her, the man also tries to strangle Ned to death. Fortunately, Lily can hold her breath for a really long time - former swimmer, don't forget - and shoots the robber with a shot gun. But she doesn't see Chuck - one eye, don't forget. The result of all this action is as follows:
Lily and Vivian collect the big reward and decide leave the house for the first time in years. Chuck and Ned bond on the bench outside The Pie Hole, where they actually discover the monkeys in questions were made of gold. Cha-chin!
Chuck joins up with Ned and Emerson in their wake-the-dead-to-ask-them-questions-and-collect-the-reward business. And we close the first amazing hour with these two wishful lovers holding their own hands, pretending they are holding the other one's...