Judge Jason Panella is working on the first feel-good architectural holiday film...The Christmas Angle.
Watching this movie is the filmgoing equivalent to getting coal in your stocking.
There's something wonderful about discovering a terrible movie. This is especially true when the movie is so unfathomably awful that it's somehow good. You know the ones. But then there are the bad movies that haven't reached uncharted depths of ineptitude; they're just bad, and they can be pretty upsetting to watch without the unintentional laughter bonus. Christmas Angel is that kind of bad.
After his mother (Janet Dilbey, EastEnders) is knocked into a coma a few days before Christmas, Eddie (Joseph Phillips) gets a mission from an angel in a dream: find a halo, save your mum. His older brother (Angus Harrison, Skins) thinks he's nuts, and Mr. Lambert (Timothy Spall, Secrets and Lies)—the religious education teacher at Eddie's school—is too cynical about life to be of help. Or is he? Can Eddie's enthusiasm warm the teacher's heart enough? Can they expect a Christmas miracle? You should be able to answer these.
An OK plot, I guess, but not when the 45 or so minutes of screen time it provides is bloated to an hour and a half. This is a long 90 minutes, people; all of the spare time is filled with narrative asides that don't amount to anything. For instance, a big deal is made in one scene about the school's headmistress (Brenda Blethyn, Atonement) possible alcoholism…and then the plotline is abandoned. Or, how one of Eddie's classmates (who has a crush on him, by the way) is shown taking care of her feeble grandmother…and we never hear about it (or the classmate) again. Subplots in Christmas Angel only seem to exist to fill time—which is exactly what they do. This results in some wasted roles for good actors, too; despite having top billing, Celia Imrie (Bridget Jones's Diary) is in the movie for less than a minute in a throwaway role.
Writer and director Stephen Cookson (The Mumbo Jumbo) fills the rest of the film with scenes of Eddie running around London to a John Williams-y score, which just makes me wish I was watching Home Alone 2: Lost in New York instead of this. And for a movie that revolves around a boy trying to save his mother, there's no underlying urgency whatsoever. He argues with his brother, wonders how he can learn more about angels, bumbles around London some more, complains about his brother's cooking, and tries to convince more people that angels are real before doing some more of the same.
It gets worse. Most scenes have a choppy, haphazard element to them that doesn't do the movie any favors. Conversations are either cut short or drawn way out, and a few of the Eddie-on-the-move moments look like someone filmed it without permits while crouching on a rooftop. It all feels like inept, which is a shame since this could've been a charming Christmas movie. Instead, it's like spoiled eggnog.
Worth noting: Christmas Angel was originally released in 2011 as My Angel though—aside from one film festival—it seems like the movie was shelved until now.
BBC's release of Christmas Angel has an average 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track. No extras (sigh), but the DVD case insert does have glitter on it—score!
Ho ho ho. Guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: BBC Video
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