No Angel Should Be Like Mike

Posted: December 26, 1996

In biblical times, angels were fearsome creatures who descended on chariots of fire, slew the enemies of God with bolts of lightning and protected the innocent with shields of righteousness.

But these are the '90s, and each generation must re-imagine angels in its own way, in its own image, to address its own problems.

Thus, we have angels who look like Della Reese and help people retrieve missing pets. And angels like the title character in ``Michael'' - a chubby, middle-aged white guy who likes the Beatles.

Michael (John Travolta, in his ``people just love me'' mode) is an angel who, we are told, lives at a run-down motel in the Midwest. He attracts the attention of a tabloid publisher (Bob Hoskins), who sends a team (William Hurt, Robert Pastorelli and Andie MacDowell) to investigate.

There is much at stake for Hurt's character, a cynical reporter at the end of his professional rope, and for MacDowell's character, an oft-divorced flake who's almost given up on love. Their search for the truth about Michael - surprise, surprise - turns into a search for the truth about their own lives, with poor Pastorelli along for comic relief.

``Michael'' is a comedy about the problems of middle age. The movie's title character is a baby boom angel, and it isn't just his physique and his taste in music that give him away. Michael is essentially a therapist, helping Hurt and MacDowell sort out their personal problems, which turn out to be petty and uninteresting.

Also uninteresting is Michael - certainly not as funny or charming as the movie thinks he is. Travolta's increasingly messianic persona has become alarming, and someone needs to tell him he's done his ``Pulp Fiction'' jukebox-dancing shtick one too many times.

The story for ``Michael'' is credited in part to former Daily News columnist Pete Dexter, though the final screenplay credit is shared with director Nora Ephron and her sister Delia, who appear to have given ``Michael'' a sugary makeover.

MICHAEL * Produced by Sean Daniel, Nora Ephron and James Jacks, directed by Nora Ephron, music by Randy Newman, written by Nora Ephron, Delia Ephron, Pete Dexter and Jim Quinlan, distributed by New Line Cinema.

Running Time: 105 minutes

Michael - John Travolta

Dorothy Winters - Andie MacDowell

Frank Quinlan - William Hurt

Vartan Malt - Bob Hoskins

Huey Driscoll - Robert Pastorelli

Judge Newberg - Teri Garr

Pansy Milbank - Jean Stapleton

Parents Guide: PG

Showing at: Area theaters

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