I think I’m going to wish I had picked a different movie to include in Phoebe Cates Month. I mean, Shag is a charming little movie (despite how awkwardly I was turned on by dance numbers including the Confederate flag). Baby Sister was actually much better than I expected a disposable movie of the week to be. Next week’s movie, Paradise, has a whole lot going for it despite it being a pretty bad knockoff of an already bad movie.
But, no, I had to include 1987’s Date with an Angel.
Billed as a romantic comedy, the trailer for the movie doesn’t seem to have a single goddamned joke in it. In fact, there’s not much romance in it either. There’s the guy from All My Children, Michael E. Knight, who I totally know because that was my mom’s soap opera of choice for my entire life, and a girl with an incredibly out of control head of blonde curls, Emmanuelle Beart (who was in Mission: Impossible with Tom Cruise) who doesn’t speak but makes weird noises that ranges from squeaks to chirps to dolphin sounds. I guess she’s an angel too? I mean, that poster sure as shit indicates she’s an angel, but the preview doesn’t really tell you for sure.
And where’s our girl, Phoebe? Well, she’s there too. I guess she’s Knight’s girlfriend who spends most of the trailer acting like an utter crazy person. You know what that means, right? Yeah, I’m likely going to be even more attracted to Phoebe in this movie than normal and I’m totally going to side with her. Crazy chicks own me. They. Own. Me.
Er… Whatever. So what’s going on with this movie? Our synopsis for this comes from Amazon, where I actually purchased this hunk of junk for like $10 or something. It reads, “Aspiring composer Jim Sanders wakes up to discover a beautiful, broken-winged angel in his pool. When everyone finds out, Jim must cope with his jealous fiance, his exploitive future father-in-law and his buddies who have an outrageous business plan!”
There’s an exclamation point at the end of that synopsis. That’s never a great sign.
As the movie starts, I should say I have some conflicting feelings about this. I give a big thumbs up to Phoebe Cates (I mean, no doy because I’m featuring a whole month of movies starring her). I also really like the director, Tom McLoughlin, who gave me my very favorite Friday the 13th movie ever, Part VI, thanks in large part to his appreciation of the Universal Classic Monsters, and Frankenstein in particular. But it doesn’t take too long to know that I’m looking at a De Laurentis Entertainment Group film. Yeah, sure, they released Transformers: The Movie, Blue Velvet, Evil Dead II, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, among other films of varying critical and popular praise, and, yes, Dino De Laurentis himself produced my beloved 1976 version of King Kong, but King Kong Lives is shameful and something that wrecks all their other accomplishments. For shame!
Oh, if you aren’t sure that this movie isn’t completely bonkers, it literally begins with the voice of God himself sending his angel to collect a soul and to bring him to heaven. The angel he’s speaking to responds in clicks and clacks and chirps like a fucking dolphin and I already realize this is going to be a running thing I will grow very tired of very quickly. I immediately grew tired of it in the trailer. But, what’s this now? A lovely short haired Phoebe Cates in a too-80s-to-be-real dress? My interest is already piqued again.
I suppose I need some context as to why Phoebe is in this dress and at this party. This is a party for Patty (Cates) and Jim’s (Knight) engagement. And if that’s not enough, the party was meant to be outside, but it’s storming outside. Yet, Jim hasn’t come inside because he would rather stay outside for some reason. When Patty goes outside to bring him in, he does an amazing stupid bit where he’s running bases by running from one party table to another and calling the game like he’s a radio announcer. All her stuffy family friends watch from indoors like he’s a crazy person. He eventually slips and falls in the mud making him look like a dufus.
When reflecting upon the incredibly nutty paragraph I just wrote, I realize that I’m not giving any context to what’s happening in front of my eyes. So, let’s backtrack. Patty is the daughter of a wealthy cosmetic magnate (?) who seems to be your good old fashioned “old money” type with a bunch of snooty, stuffy friends who just don’t seem to understand a guy like Jim even though he works for Patty’s father and has talent in what he does with cosmetics… (??) Tom is a bit more of a dreamer and creative type who isn’t as button down as Patty or her father. Meanwhile, God is telling an angel to go and collect a soul to take to heaven. And there are three guys driving around like madmen wearing ski masks.
Got it? Fuck you if you don’t, I’m moving on.
There’s something else here that’s important to note. Jim’s suffering from headaches. It’s mentioned almost as a throw away line, but it is of MASSIVE importance to this movie in an utterly insane way.
The guys who are driving around with ski masks like madmen come to the party and bust in with machine guns and take Jim as hostage. In case you’re wondering what this has to do with anything, in the 80s, armed kidnapping with machine guns and hand grenades were a common thing to find in comedies. It’s just the way it was back then. Don’t worry, though, this was all fake. These kidnappers are friends of Jim’s who want to take him to a better party and throw him a surprise bachelor party.
Need I mention that I’m not exactly seeing why Patty is so bad? Sure, she might be a tad snobby, but her dad’s rich, and Jim’s boss, and she’s a model. And she’s Phoebe Cates. Maybe they don’t have the greatest of compatibility, but Jim’s buddies are idiots. They crashed a party with what appeared to be very real weapons and took their friend away from something that you’re really not supposed to blow off. All this comes after we’ve not really seen Jim to be a goof or a screw up or beneath Patty or her father. He seems just as badly matched to his friends as the movie wants you to believe he is to Patty and her lifestyle of fair riches.
Oh yeah, there’s an angel in this movie. So God sent this angel to Earth to collect a soul to bring back to heaven, but on the way down, she hit a satellite and crash lands in Jim’s pool. Seeing a hot, French woman in his pool, Jim goes to help, and it’s implied with a swell of romantic music that he’s fallen in love with her at first sight. You know, as you do in these situations. She self dries and fixes her clothes to look like your classic angel atop a Christmas tree. He revives her with mouth-to-mouth. She sits up and is approaching him awkwardly but jumps back and yelps (I guess that’s the word for the sound she made) thanks to the reveal that her wing is broken.
She kisses him after he rambles on about how he’s engaged but not married yet and she can do whatever she wants to him. The joke’s on him twice over because as she kisses him and tries to, I dunno, collect his soul, he falls asleep. That, and no matter how pretty an angel is, she has no sex organs so… Ha ha, motherfucker. That’s one hell of a case of blue balls you’re gonna have.
Also, for no real reason why, Jim is seemingly a really bad dude and a bit of a son of a bitch. Angel or no, Phoebe Cates or no, you don’t make out with a strange woman that shows up in your pool when you’re engaged to be married.
Patty shows up later, telling Jim that she and her father are pretty upset over what happened last night. Again, understandable. Your friends fucked up your engagement party. Your future father-in-law is your goddamn boss. You’re like hung over and your dipshit friends are still hanging out in the street outside your house. Yeah, they have every right to be pissed off at you. So far, neither Patty or her father has given you any reason to act like a moron.
Anyway, as Jim cleans up and gets ready to meet Patty and her father, he finds the angel lady again in his house and is stunned by her actual existence (which he originally thought was just a dream). She speaks in whale and dolphin noises that doesn’t make any actual words or anything and looks real simple and tries to use gestures to indicate what she wants. You know, like a woman.
Jim’s dipshit friends bust into his house and discover the angel. They are appropriately surprised by her being an actual angel. However, I also kinda think they may be cool with her because she’s really, really pretty.
They also really want to help the angel because they want to exploit her for fame and fortune like she’s King Kong or something. Jim ditches his friends by saying if they don’t want to help him help her, he doesn’t need them. He helps tie her wing up and needs to go meet Patty and her father, but, uh oh, when he tries to leave, Patty is at the door and finds the angel in Jim’s place. Thinking he is cheating on her, and his complete inability to explain what’s going on or, really, say anything to keep her from freaking out, Patty takes off angry.
Instead of trying to fix his relationship with Patty, Jim takes the angel to a church to find help for her. Everyone who looks at the angel (other than Patty) looks at the angel and has a near orgasm over her. I don’t know if it’s a sex thing or a religious thing or not. But when Jim speaks to a priest at the church, his complete inability to talk to people like a goddamn normal person makes the priest think Jim’s a crazy person. When the priest does see the angel, she’s too shy to show herself which leads to some more hilarious innuendo that ends with the priest telling Jim to take the angel to the Baptists. Not being a religious person really hurts me understanding these stupid jokes.
That being said, the first thirty minutes of this movie has told us all we need for the next several minutes. Jim is a bit of a screw up with some pretty terrible friends who tries to steal the angel and exploit her as a money making attraction. The angel causes Jim all sorts of trouble that he cannot explain or articulate at all. Patty is frustrated with Jim and angry and jealous which eventually leads to her being more and more crazy. Patty’s father is vengeful and wanting to destroy Jim – until he meets the angel and, apparently calms down to the point of really liking her whenever he sees her. That’s basically all we need to really know. Eventually, Jim takes the angel to a Wendy’s to try to teach her how to eat hamburgers. She gets freaked out by it, but really loves french fries. They also somehow got the relatively new song “You Are the Girl” by The Cars for the Wendy’s scene and that’s about the best thing about this movie.
While the rest of this movie slogs on, I want to also make all of you aware that this dumb movie with a girl who speaks only in squeaks and blips of high pitched sounds was panned by critics in 1987, but currently shows 159 reviews on Amazon which a whopping 89%… 89 fucking percent… are either 4 or 5 star reviews. I could maybe kinda see how people may have pleasant memories of watching this movie on cable when they were younger and being charmed by it. I really don’t remember this movie being popular at all. I know I saw it on video store shelves, but goddamn… I didn’t know anyone who ever watched it let alone giving it glowing reviews.
There was one joke in this muddled middle section that was actually quite funny. After Patty’s father saw the angel and thought her to be the most beautiful being ever, he has a board meeting where it’s made relatively clear that the ad campaign for a new line of cosmetics failed because Patty herself wasn’t quite the right look for the new line. So, he explains he’s got a new girl to use for the ads and when asked he says it’s his “daughter’s fiance’s mistress” to a shocked board. That was a good joke. Well done, movie, you got one laugh from me.
Also, poor Phoebe… She has every reason to believe her fiance is cheating on her. Then, her dad tells her he’s replacing her as the face of his company’s line of makeup. That’s enough to drive any woman to drinking.
Oh, and I should definitely mention here, that I am at the exact halfway point, and I’ve not even gotten to the insane twist of the movie and the whole reason why everything is happening. I am halfway through the movie and the entire thrust of the story has not even revealed itself.
And holy fucking shit what the hell is this?!? Below is an actual scene that happens when Jim continuously fails to explain the existence of the angel yet still tries to win back Patty and make it up to her that she thinks he’s cheating on her.
That’s… I don’t even know how to explain this. I don’t know how to put into words how fucking insane the Love Bug is. If Phoebe Cates or Alyssa Milano sent that to me and I got stuck with that insane laugh in my head and nightmares, I’d go insane… But still date the shit out of either of them.
All the while, Jim’s shithead friends plan to steal the angel to make money off her. They create an elaborate plan to hire the, sigh, Love Bug to have Patty meet Jim at a gazebo, except Jim has nothing to do with it and doesn’t know she’s waiting on him. They then tell Jim and the angel to meet them at the same place thinking that when Patty storms off, Jim will go after her and leave the angel unguarded, which he does which allow for them to take the angel. Naturally, this frustrates Patty even more. Nothing says comedy like causing a girl who doesn’t deserve it to go utterly insane as her fiance and father discard her like yesterday’s banana peels.
We are about 30 minutes away from the credits and we still have not revealed why this angel has come into Jim’s life…
So Jim’s buddies plan to reveal the angel to the press. Jim’s desperately trying to chase them down and find where they are before they show her off. Now, I have to admit, while the guys’ intentions to exploit her is pretty bad, it really doesn’t look good when they drag her out onto a stage while bound kicking and screaming. Jim finds them just in time to tell the press she is a fake and rescues her.
Patty’s dad chases after Jim and the angel and even gets the police involved by saying he stole valuables from his house the night his buddies faked his kidnapping. Jim and the angel hide out in the woods where she makes friends with all the forest animals and he creepily watches her bath naked in a pond. It doesn’t take long before the angel’s broken wing is fixed and she is able to fly again.
She flies into the clouds, I guess to speak with God. You know… as an angel would. When she comes back, she ties her wing up again to hide her healed wing from Jim. Now, because the angel cannot speak but in stupid squeaks and squawks, I am assuming she’s hiding it so she doesn’t have to leave Jim. Jesus… I just wish I knew why she’s in Jim’s life and turning it all upside down!
A pair of police officers find Jim’s car parked on the edge of the woods which brings everyone looking for him and the angel to his location. Before doing so, he plays for her the first classical piece he ever wrote. Oh yeah… He’s supposedly an aspiring composer. Remember that in the synopsis? That’s had zero bearing on the movie’s story at all.
As if this is some zany comedy from Hollywood’s yesteryear, Patty and her father separately make their way to where the police found Jim’s car. Oh, and Patty is packing a fucking shotgun with her. That’s a turn that came incredibly quick. Jim’s dad bailed out the shithead friends to help him get to Jim and the angel before Patty’s dad does. All roads are converging on the woods and some weird ass adult tree house Jim is hiding out in.
We are about 15 minutes away from credits and we STILL don’t know the big twist that brought the angel to Jim’s life, but that is about to change real soon…
Jim is awkwardly stumbling about and looks drunk. He’s been swallowing aspirin by the fistful in recent scenes. Patty finds him with the rifle and refers to the angel as his “angel bitch” which is something I really need to remember for later use. Patty is getting pushed around and thrown to the ground. Even though all indication is that Jim is the one that pushed and kicked Patty, but it’s the angel. Just before everyone else shows up, Jim starts showing signs of a pain at the base of his skull. I wonder what that’s all about.
While everyone else fights over all the events that happened in the movie, Jim collapses to the ground. The angel reveals herself in all her heavenly glory and makes it pour rain on Patty and her father that follow them around everywhere they go. I’m still not exactly sure why Patty is a bad guy but whatever. The angel sees Jim and tries to signal that he needs help before ascending into the sky. Jim is taken to the hospital where it is revealed that the cause for all his headaches and his wobbling about in the previous scene is because he’s had an ever worsening brain tumor.
That’s fucking right! Jim has a fucking tumor that he’s dying from. THAT IS WHY THE ANGEL ENTERED HIS LIFE AND THE ENTIRE PLOT OF THE MOVIE. She was meant to come to Earth and take his soul to Heaven. No fucking shit. This comedy exists because the main guy who, by all intents and purposes, didn’t really do anything terrible and was just a general goof was given a fucking death sentence from God.
I can’t say I have ever seen a screwball comedy ever start with that.
Jim figures out that he was supposed to be taken by the angel the first night he found her – that night of the party. Her broken wing prevented her from completing her mission, but she’s got other plans. She kisses him and before he dies she cures him and ultimately loses her wings. She turns into a nurse who can now speak words and he lives.
Seriously… This was the movie. A man is supposed to die, but we don’t learn that until the last few minutes of the movie. He’s saved by an angel who then becomes his new girlfriend supplanting his original fiance who didn’t do anything wrong. What?
This was a thing in the 80s and 90s. There would be these two people who we want to be together and in love. There’s a third piece of the story that forms a love triangle. It wasn’t uncommon for scripts to be flimsy enough to not make that third wheel worthy for some reason. In this movie, Patty was rich and very slightly uppity, but she never once did anything wrong. Maybe she gave impressions that Jim should get a real job and not compose music. Okay, that kinda sucks, but she didn’t become an outright villain until she decided to pick up a shotgun and try to kill an angel – that to the best of her knowledge was only a proverbial angel and not a real one. She was driven insane by Jim being completely incapable of explaining the angel’s existence or himself or his dumb friends’ schemes. Okay, maybe don’t shoot an angel, but she was technically the one wronged. She didn’t wrong anyone to make her a villain.
There’s little to really say about what makes the movie “bad”. It’s dumb, but fairly harmless. I mean yeah, Phoebe Cates gets the shaft hard in this (and I wish I could say “you know what I mean” at the end of that), but it could certainly be worse. Emmanuelle Beart is beautiful, and that alone carries her own performance but it gets old with all the squeaky “dialog” she has. Michael E. Knight reminds me a little too much of Tom Cruise. He has a lot of the same expressions and a similar look, but he’s doing the best he can with what he’s got. And before you think I am being too soft on this movie, I’m not. It’s bad. The comedy is pretty bad, and the story itself is kinda bonkers to the point that it mixes something like King Kong with Somewhere in Time what with the exploitation of a “wonder of the world” and the love story that ends with a dead guy elements.
I guess I can see why some girls who are roughly my age growing up in the 80s would love this movie, but it’s still got a shocking amount of 5 and 4 star reviews on Amazon.
Next week, I close out Phoebe Cates Month with the movie that started it all for her. Check back to see what I have to say about the 1982 Blue Lagoon ripoff Paradise!