Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Thursday, January 31, 2019

WHY DO I OWN THIS?: Date with an Angel (1987)

In southern France, there's a 30,000 year old cave painting of a human woman and a half-man, half-bison creature getting cozy. In other words: Pretty much from the moment humanity formulated myths, certain people have dreamed about fucking magical creatures. I guess it's just human nature to not be romantically satisfied with other people. This is a proud tradition that carries through most myths and religions in history. The ancient Greeks especially loved it. The concept remains in our pop culture to this day, in material ranging from pornographic novels to a Best Picture winner. In 1984, Ron Howard's “Splash!”  was an especially popular and family friendly riff on this concept. In 1987, “Date with an Angel” would take more-or-less the same premise but trade a fish tail for feathery wings. This film is not especially well regarded or even remembered but, for some reason, I own it.

Jim had dreams of becoming a musician but, now, he's engaged to marry Patty, the daughter of a rich cosmetics company executive. He's not happy with this situation but tells himself he loves Patty. His friends drag him off to a bachelor party and he awakens in a drunken stupor the next morning. That's when a beautiful woman falls from the sky into his pool. She's is quite literally an angel, sent from heaven. Upon setting an eye on her, Patty immediately assumes Jim is cheating on her. The angel, who cannot speak and doesn't understand how the mortal world works, gets involved in lots of shenanigans. Naturally, Jim really does develop feelings for her soon enough.

“Date with an Angel” is a very dumb romantic-comedy. It's one of those films were problems could be resolved if only the characters stopped and talked to each other for a minute. Upon seeing Jim with Angel, Patty jumps to the conclusion that he's having an affair. Never does she actually allow him to explain what happened or let him show her the obvious evidence, like Angel's wings or her heavenly glow. Eventually, Patty's behavior grows more manic and ridiculous, swinging a rifle around and wearing her underwear outside her clothes. Jim's friends perform bizarre and frequently illegal stunts, like dressing up as terrorists to attack Patty's party. Or when they kidnap Angel and attempt to put her on display, an unambiguously criminal act that the film treats as a wacky antic. Most of this shit is in the movie to pad out what's a pretty thin premise.

Writer/director Tom McLoughlin, previously of clever eighties horror flicks like “One Dark Night” and “Friday the 13th: Jason Lives!,” was obviously way more interested in the fish-out-of-water antics an angel landing on Earth presented. Angel doesn't speak, only communicating in high-pitched, bird-like vocalizations. She's baffled by human food but, thanks to some gratuitous product placement from Wendy's, soon discovers a love of french fries. Better are the gags that result from people being shocked by her appearances, her wings and behavior often confusing or shocking people, such as a man in a church. Or how her angelic abilities, like a kinship with animals, gets Jim out of a jam with Patty's dad. This stuff, which also includes a singing telegram dressed as a ladybug, is odd enough that it at least inspires some baffled chuckles.  

The biggest star in “Date with an Angel” is Phoebe Cates as Patty. Cates, an angelic beauty herself, thoroughly embarrasses herself with the increasingly broad and gross slapstick the film insists she partakes in. She's not really the star of the film though. That duty falls to Michael E. Knight, an undistinguished performer best known for a long stint on “All My Children.” Knight has some okay comedic chops, displayed when looking away from a bathing Angel. Yet Jim is mostly a fairly bland character. Emmanuelle Beart plays the Angel. It's easy to see why Beart was cast in the part. She is striking and captures a child-like sense of innocence well enough. She still can't distract from how weird the character is though, with her shrieks and wing-related pratfalls.

Why Do I Own This?: “Date with an Angel” received negative reviews. Roger Ebert compared it unflatteringly to “Teen Wolf Too.” Its box office was even worst, the film barely grossing over a million dollars against a six million dollar budget. Tom McLoughlin hasn't directed a theatrically released film since, though he's become a prolific director of television films. But when I saw the director of two horror movies I liked made a rom-com with a really strange/dumb premise, I decided I had to track it down. This is also one of those movies my dear mother considers “sweet” and she watched it often during my childhood. So that's why I own this totally forgotten, oddball motion picture. I doubt I'll ever watch it again. [5/10]

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