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IN SHORT: Beautiful to look at. Long to sit through.
What we learn of angels in the romantic fantasy City of Angels is that a) they are not and have never been human; b) they gather to watch the sun rise and set because they hear music in those events; c) they have no senses or emotions, and 4) they have a thing for the library.
In our real life City of Angels (Los Angeles) we find that there are thousands of these black clad wingless wonders, some of whom yearn badly for what they don't have, principally senses and feelings. Every once in a while an angel gets an eyeful of hot human and falls in love.
Which is just about all the story you'll get in City of Angels, a movie which has its moments, but puts more emphasis on making LA look beautiful. It doesn't have to work too hard to make Meg Ryan look beautiful. You'll reach a scene about two thirds of the way through in which Meg is illuminated by the sunrise and it's triple thumpa-thumpa time. But I digress...
Heart surgeon Dr. Maggie Rice (Ryan) is the luminous beauty that catches the eye of puppy-dog-eyed, slack-jawed faced Seth (Nicolas Cage). Seth's job is to make the pick up on the newly departed souls, one of whom is Maggie's patient. During that first encounter, Maggie sees (or more properly senses) Seth and for the angel it's love at first non-sight. From that point on, Seth doesn't do a lot of guiding. Most of the time he hangs around laying the invisible touch on MR, who now can see him physically. Very quickly she does the incomprehensible and falls for the stranger that she knows nothing about.
Seth has got other angels to talk to about his growing, um, appreciation of humankind (mainly Homicide's Andre Braugher) but the stand-and-light-up-the-screen performance award goes to Dennis Franz, who's made a career of being grouchy on television shows like Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue. Franz plays another one of Maggie's patients, named Messinger, but this one knows all about Seth, 'cuz it takes one to know one. This ex-angel revels in his ex-divinity and new Earthly sensations. Franz' appearances on screen are the only time City of Angels has any real crackle.
About this point, if you haven't keeled over in your seat, you'll have figured out the coming resolution to the Angel loves Human problem. Cranky warns you that when it happens, and it does, you've still got 30 - 40 minutes to go until you reach the end of the film, where something different happens. Cranky's not going to spill the beans on what really happens. You'll have to wait until you pull the popcorn out of the microwave and plop down in your sofa 'cuz, that's where City of Angels will be best viewed. Director Brad Silberling has made a beautiful film. The visuals are almost artistic. The amount of story that's up on screen is not enough to fill two hours and the piece needs to be reduced in length. It's just too long for what it is, which is one story without any real conflict.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for City of Angels, he would have paid . . .
Pay Per View level.
If you were curious: The "real" angels wait for you to get through The Light leading to the Other Side. If they were with us, guiding us through, they'd wear brilliant, happy countenances, because they know how incredible it is on the Other Side. The angels on the Other Side look incredibly sad when they boot your butt out of Heaven.
Just another piece of the puzzle in the Mystery that is Cranky ...
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