Movie Review: Angels Sing
Austin360.com | Austin American-Statesman
The light steel gallop of steel guitars playing over childlike animation in the opening credits of “Angels Sing” sets the tone for a family movie full of Texas twang.
The movie, adapted from Turk Pipkin’s book “When Angels Sing,” has a gentle saccharine sway, pushed along by an ever-present soundtrack that winks with the punch lines and cues the dramatic episodes. In addition to the instrumental score, the movie is stuffed with a roster of recognizable musical talent, from Charlie Sexton to Marcia Ball to Ray Benson as a meat-slinging Salt Lick worker.
Though he doesn’t do much singing, the lead in the movie is also a musician. Harry Connick Jr. plays Michael Walker, a fun-loving father and husband who works as a professor. He’s the type of dad who enjoys an easy witty banter with his son David (Chandler Canterbury) and wife (the always lovely Connie Britton), but his effervescent demeanor loses its pop when discussion of Christmas arises.
The happy family takes a break from harried house-hunting in Austin to visit family in San Antonio at Thanksgiving, where it becomes clear that Michael’s disillusion with the holiday season is tied to his relationship with his father (nice to see Kris Kristofferson as a gently broken grandpa) and a lingering family tragedy involving his brother. The trip home ripples with family camaraderie and sing-alongs, but Michael refuses to succumb to the spirit.
When the Walkers get one heck of a deal on a beautiful old house owned by an allegorical Santa (Willie Nelson), Michael lands in the middle of a neighborhood renowned for its holiday cheer. But he’s not playing along. Much of the movie traces Michael’s stubborn mood and his steadfast refusal to shake his inner Grinch, and the repetitive nature of the intended comedy becomes a bit exhausting.
After setting up a family drama, the movie navigates choppy comedic waves, before making a lazy turn toward a resolution aided (naturally) by the youngest Walker. Lessons get learned with little effort, and the movie does its best to squeeze as many musicians as possible into the story. (There is a payoff in a couple of quick tunes from Nelson and a brief duet from Lyle Lovett and Kat Edmonson).
The movie is directed by local Tim McCanlies, who has delivered solid family material in the past with “Secondhand Lions” and “The Iron Giant.” But unlike those two movies, McCanlies did not write “Angels Sing,” and the script from first-timer Lou Berney wanders in search of dramatic tension, hustling through the story with campy humor and pacing before grinding to a slow finish that has trouble keeping audiences engaged. There’s a sweet message about family and forgiveness at the heart of “Angels Sing,” but the tune is a bit stale.