Touched by a Hack

Angels visiting Earth for satirical purposes (to coin a contradiction) is old stuff in the movie and TV business. But an Old Testament warrior angel, more akin to the carousing gods of Asgard than to the timid Clarence of It’s A Wonderful Life, is an intriguing idea ripe with potential. Hiring John Travolta to play the surprisingly earthy angel (there’s another one), with William Hurt, Andie MacDowell and Robert Pastorelli as tabloid reporters sent to bring him back from Maureen Stapleton’s Kansas motel to their Chicago publisher Bob Hoskins, all seems like money in the bank.

Unfortunately, no one takes advantage of the opportunity at hand. The trio of reporters are much too concerned with their own pursuits to do their jobs – mainly, interview a mythical being on a mysterious mission to Earth. Nora Ephron’s direction is merely┬ácapable, not helping much.

The film doesn’t want to get too religious, or too supernatural, and so it doesn’t accomplish anything. Travolta is meant to instill some magic to the proceedings, but he mostly just hangs out while his companions see him only as a meal ticket. MacDowell’s country gal accent comes and goes. Adding to her embarrassment (and ours) is the fact that she has ambitions to be a country/western singer – you don’t want to be in the theater to witness her song about pie. Stapleton and Hoskins, and everyone else in the supporting cast, are on hand merely as disposable characters.

Worst of all, there’s a cute little dog along for the ride, who is somehow integral to the plot, but whose main purpose is to provide some shamelessly contrived heart-tugging. One of the year’s great disappointments.

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