If you look at this year’s most successful films at the box office, you will quickly see a pattern. Topping the list are:
- Movies about comic book characters (Iron Man 3, Man of Steel, The Wolverine);
- Animated films (Despicable Me 2, Monsters University, The Croods);
- Science fiction/fantasy films laden with special effects (Oz the Great and Powerful, Star Trek Into Darkness, Gravity, World War Z, etc.);
- R-rated comedies with lots of sex, profanity, and crudity (The Heat, We’re the Millers, Identity Thief, etc.).
With these types of films dominating our nation’s cineplexes, where does a new holiday movie like Angels Sing fit in? Here’s a film that doesn’t bombard you with special effects. It’s not about zombies or serial killers, and it doesn’t present a dark and depressing view of America’s future (like The Hunger Games). No sex, violence, or profanity.
It’s just a solid, wholesome, family film that promotes biblical values. It’s well-written, and features an eclectic mix of seasoned actors and musicians in the starring roles.
But will it find an audience?
Angels Sing focuses on Michael (Harry Connick, Jr.), a college professor in Austin, Texas, who suffered the loss of his brother on Christmas 30 years before. Not only does he blame himself for the tragedy, but he also has felt sour about holiday celebrations ever since.
Michael and his wife (Connie Britton, known for her roles on Nashville and Friday Night Lights) move onto a street that turns out to be famous for its Christmas displays. That naturally sets up conflict when his new neighbors don’t understand why he doesn’t want to join in the fun. Then history repeats itself, and Michael must figure out how to help his son avoid the same burdens of blame and bitterness that have weighed him down since childhood.
The film is directed by Tim McCanlies, who wrote and directed Secondhand Lions. The cast is full of recognizable faces—from past roles (like Fionnula Flanagan of the television series Lost), or from the world of music (Lyle Lovett, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson).
In fact, one of the unique features of this movie is the number of musicians playing cameo roles and singing a wide variety of Christmas songs. "We already had a great start with Harry and Willie and Kris, so I told our casting director, 'Let's put everybody who's a musician in the movie,'" director McCanlies told Billboard magazine. "I've never worried about musicians as actors. They are just natural actors and I don't know what it is—they use the same part of the brain, but differently somehow? I just love working with these naturals."
The only odd part of the movie to me was the abrupt changes in tone. It starts as a slow, serious drama, then morphs into a light comedy, and then turns sober again. But overall it still works.
This is not an explicitly Christian story, though it does have supernatural elements similar to numerous other Christmas films. But in a day when many holiday films seek to be edgy or cynical, Angels Sing echoes biblical values as it examines the lingering effects of tragedy, the need for fathers to step up to their responsibilities, and the importance of building positive memories in a family.
Coming soon to theaters and DVD
Films like this face an uphill battle in finding an audience in our present entertainment culture. You don’t see many dramas like this in theaters anymore. In fact, in many ways Angels Sing is like a well-made Hallmark film on television—and I mean that as a compliment because the Hallmark Channel is one of the few places where you can find wholesome films to watch with your kids.
Angels Sing will have a limited release on November 1—go to the film’s website to watch the trailer and to find a list of theaters showing it. If it’s not playing near you, just wait a month for the DVD release in December.
It’s worth seeing—and it may just make your family’s list of favorite holiday films.
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