Judge Clark Douglas wants a magical Christmas encounter with Willie Nelson.
Christmas comes but once a year, but the memories last a lifetime.
Stop me if this story sound familiar: see, there's this person who just can't stand Christmas. He's hated Christmas for a long time and refuses to celebrate the holiday with silly traditions like singing carols and putting up Christmas lights. However, all of that's going to change this year, as…oh, you've heard this one? Yeah, I figured as much. There are approximately 600 billion Christmas movies sporting some variation on this plot, and now we have Angels Sing to add to the pile.
The grinchy figure of this particular film is Michael Walker (Harry Connick, Jr., Bug), a good-natured college professor and family man. He and his wife Susan (Connie Britton, Friday Night Lights) have hoped to move into a new home for some time, but they just aren't able to afford an upgrade. One day, something remarkable happens: Michael encounters a genial old man (Willie Nelson, Beer for My Horses) who happens to be selling a beautiful house at a remarkably low price. The only catch: the owner will be required to keep the property in line with neighborhood standards. Michael agrees, assuming that those standards simply involve mowing the lawn and doing general upkeep. Nope. It turns out that the house is located in a subdivision famed for its annual Christmas decorations. To make matters worse, the home Michael has just bought has always been the centerpiece of those decorations. Our protagonist just so happens to hate Christmas due to an emotionally scarring event in his past, and refuses to participate. And so, the wait for Michael's inevitable change-of-heart begins.
The details of this particular story might be unique, but the general outline is so familiar that you'll see every plot twist coming long before it arrives. In fairness, Angels Sing is a good deal more tolerable than some movies along these lines, as it endeavors to make Michael's hatred of Christmas legitimate and the neighbors who work to change his spirit never feel like overbearing oppressors (ala Christmas with the Kranks, a horror story disguised as a feel-good fable). Still, it's hard to believe that this was an actual theatrical release (especially given its 87-minute running time) rather than a bit of holiday-themed filler on the Hallmark channel.
One aspect of the film that is actually quite charming is the music. The cast is loaded with talented musicians (mostly of the country variety), and they sing on quite a few occasions. Sometimes these occasions seem exceptionally contrived, but hey, it's still good stuff. It's a pleasure to hear the likes of Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, Kris Kristofferson and Marcia Ball employ their talents (mostly Christmas covers), and it helps that all of the musicians used in the film are actually pretty good actors, too. Lovett and Kristofferson have been fine character actors for many years, but Nelson is the surprise. He's not going to win an Oscar for his performance, but he's surprisingly warm and natural in his crucial role. When the movie deviates from its formulaic plot and just chills with its colorful supporting cast, it's quite a pleasant experience.
Angels Sing (Blu-ray) offers a solid 1080p/1.85:1 transfer that offers strong detail and bright, vibrant colors. The palette is bright, but not overbearingly so—yet another of the many little ways in which the movie manages to be just slightly more tolerable than its many similarly-themed cinematic cousins. The DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio track is strong, shining in particular during the musical numbers. Generally, it's a low-key track with little sound design; the emphasis is typically on dialogue. Supplements are limited to a digital copy.
I can't say that I actually dislike Angels Sing—it's kinda soulful, it's reasonably well-acted and it certainly makes an effort to be better than this sort of thing usually is—but ultimately, it still relies entirely too much on creaky formula to really transform into a worthwhile holiday flick.
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