Reviewed by Dan Lybarger
December 18, 1996
It's easy to imagine John Travolta playing an angel. Like the Heavenly Host, he can rescue audiences from boredom in movies like Phenomenon. Unfortunately, it takes more than Travolta and maybe even more than divine intervention to redeem director Nora Ephron's (Sleepless in Seattle) dreary comedy Michael.
Travolta does make a valiant effort. While he may be playing the archangel Michael, he doesn't exactly glow. Burned out after all of his battles with Lucifer, Michael is a pot-bellied, chain-smoking, womanizing oaf whose wings are his only giveaway. After a career dominated by nice-guy roles, Travolta relishes the idea of being scuzzy. During certain moments in this film, his glee is almost contagious.
Almost. Ephron runs out of gags early on, and after a while it's no longer fun to watch Travolta covering his food with pounds of sugar. The sketchy plot credited to Ephron, her sister Delia, Pete Dexter and Jim Quinlan concerns a group of tabloid reporters (William Hurt, Andie MacDowell, Robert Pastorelli) who convince the rambunctious Michael to come with them to Chicago to be their cover story. As a narrative, Michael seems patched together and poorly conceived. Important questions are unanswered. We never learn how a being who once defeated Satan can be stuck living in a ratty motel in Iowa or why he's such a clod.
If the confusion weren't agony enough, Ephron telegraphs her plot twists years in advance and loads on a perfunctory romantic subplot. It's hard to believe that she once co-wrote the intelligent script to Silkwood because her elephantine direction and weak scripting make for one unpleasant experience.
However, the biggest shame of this production is the feeling of pity it generates for the actors. Are Bob Hoskins and All in the Family's Jean Stapleton really that hard up for work? MacDowell's cosmetics commercials are more entertaining.
After sitting through this tiring drivel, one longs for the sophisticated wit of Beavis and Buit-Head Do America. (PG-13) Rating: 1.
This page was last updated on 10/28/97.