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Merry Christmas to all of you who observe this festive holiday. It's a time for presents, family stuff, and ponderous movies hoping for Oscar® nominations in the New Year. Wouldn't it be nice to plop down in front of a flick that is just fun? Enter Michael, a romantic fantasy about an angel come to earth. Being a fantasy . . .
Once upon a time there was a National Enquirer-type supermarket tabloid called the National Mirror. It was owned by a heavily accented publisher named Vartan Malt (Bob Hoskins), and was proud of its crack investigative reporter Frank Quinlan (William Hurt) and his partner Huey Driscoll (Robert Pastorelli). Actually, the tabloid is prouder of its mascot, a cute li'l pooch named Sparky. Sparky is owned by Huey, and has been known to pose for pictures with Princess Di and the Pope. The tabloid's circulation lives or dies by the picture of the pooch, so when the opportunity comes to have Sparky pose with an authentic, honest to God angel (no pun), it is almost too good to be true.
Malt gets Huey to wager the pooch that he can bring the angel back to Chicago for a Christmas photo shoot. Lose the wager, lose the pooch. Off go the pair to Iowa, with "angel expert" Dorothy Winters (Andie MacDowell), and Michael is underway.
To this point, despite an Act-of-God opening, Michael is a slow chuckle of a movie. That all changes when star John Travolta makes his entrance.
Travolta's angel is about as unangelic as you can get. He's a pot-bellied, Camel-smoking, beer-guzzling, crotch-grabbing, self-assured, smells-like-a-cookie woman magnet who's afraid to fly -- in airplanes. Whether his wings can really lift him is explained as Michael sings Beatles songs, preaches "love is all you need," and dances up a storm. Just as in (actually better than in) all the movies that he dances in, Travolta gets the women to follow him like a Pied Piper. Their men get ticked off, and Michael takes them down with ease, screaming "Battle!" at the top of his lungs. He plays a great character, and it's great fun to watch.
As we will discover, the archangel Michael has fought 6,363 battles, and kicked Satan out of Heaven, but this time he acts more like Cupid than the rip-snorting, fire breathing battle Angel that he says he is. Fine by me.
The love story between Hurt and MacDowell is of the type you've seen before, but under the influence of the angel it sparkles. When Michael steps out of the picture, it drops dead in its tracks. And so does the movie. I must emphasize that, by way of a story point that I cannot give away, it has to.
In one word, Michael is "cute." There is nothing disparaging about that. Indeed, all the guests of the other critics at the advance screening I attended were in agreement on this point. Michael ain't aiming for an Oscar®. It just wants to entertain. It does.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Michael, he would have paid . . .
Michael is the kind of date flick that you'll either love, or argue about on the way out -- you can spar about whether it was any good. Yeah, I thought it was good.
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