Michael (1996 with John Travolta and Andie MacDowell)

USA / 1996

Director: Nora Ephron
Writers: Nora Ephron, Delia Ephron, Pete Dexter, Jim Quinlan

Cast: John Travolta, Andie MacDowell, William Hurt, Bob Hoskins, Robert Pastorelli, Jean Stapleton, Teri Garr

The financial backers of this romantic comedy about an angel with an attitude were initially unconvinced about casting John Travolta in the title role. But when the Pulp Fiction star proved a box office draw in Get Shorty things suddenly didn’t seem such a gamble.

Nora Ephron – who’d previously been responsible for writing one of the funniest films of the ’80s, When Harry Met Sally – assumed directorial duties here (she’d previously directed Mixed Nuts and the phenomenally popular Sleepless In Seattle ) and went on to shoot one of the year’s most popular comedies, You’ve Got Mail .

William Hurt stars as tabloid reporter Frank Quinlan, a natural born cynic whose scepticism is about to be questioned when he’s given a seemingly trite assignment. His editor, Vartan Malt (Bob Hoskins), orders him to cover a story about an elderly woman who claims to have an angel living with her. To help him, Quinlan is given an inept journalist (Robert Pastorelli) who only keeps his job because he owns the paper’s mascot dog, Sparky, and a newcomer, Dorothy Winters (Andie MacDowell), who claims to be an expert in ‘angelogy’.

The trio head off for Iowa with orders to bring the angel back to Chicago: if they don’t succeed, Malt will claim Sparky as his own. When they arrive in the small town, they meet Pansy (Jean Stapleton), who introduces them to the eponymous Michael (Travolta). Much to their surprise, although Michael looks slovenly and overweight, he also sports a pair of wings that are distinctly angelic. When Pansy dies suddenly of a heart attack, Michael agrees to accompany the journalists back to Chicago, on one condition: that they drive. The foursome embark on an extremely eventful journey.

Angels-on-Earth have always been a popular genre, although arguably never more so than in the ’90s. As well as A Life Less Ordinary and City Of Angels, Dogma featured Ben Affleck and Matt Damon as a pair of murderous messengers of God. Michael, however, tops them all for containing the most memorable and unlikely angel of them all.

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