Charley and the Angel (1973)

CHARLEY AND THE ANGEL (1973)
Article 2914 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-30-2009
Posting Date: 8-5-2009
Directed by Vincent McEveety
Featuring Fred MacMurray, Cloris Leachman, Harry Morgan
Country: USA

The owner of a hardware store gets a visitation from an angel announcing to him that his time is nearly up, but he may be spared his fate if he learns to spend more time with his neglected wife and kids.

Given the fact that this movie takes place during the depression and deals with the theme of impending death (rather than, say, flubber), one might expect that this movie doesn’t really qualify as one of Disney’s “shopping cart” movies. However, once we realize that Harry Morgan’s angel is primarily a comic character (he has a funny name and only Charley can see him, supplying us with the usual supply of “who are you talking to?/You’re going crazy!” jokes), that the plot features Disney-style gangsters, and that the centerpiece of the picture is a big chase scene, you’ll realize that the “shopping cart” spirit is alive and well here. Unfortunately, the movie tries to have it both ways and ends up having it neither; it’s too fluffy to have much emotional impact, and it’s too somber to be a comic delight. I wish they had chosen to keep the tone more serious and the comedy less silly; there are moments in Cloris Leachman’s performance in which she manages to wordlessly express some fairly deep feelings that give hints on how this movie might have been as a whole. As it is, it’s definitely one of Disney’s weaker efforts, despite a cast that also features Kurt Russell and Ed Begley Jr.

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