Angel in the Family (TV)
R1 - America - Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Rob Hunt (25th December 2006).
The Film

During a review for another Echo Bridge DVD I saw the trailer for "Angel in the Family" before the disc loaded up. When I watched it, my first reactions were "contrived, embarrassingly cheesy, melodrama". I'm pleased to say I was wrong, but not by a huge amount.

The plot is for the most part a rather by-the-books tale of a broken family coming back together over Christmas, with absolutely everything (I kid you not) having a happy ending. Now for Christmas films I can understand this, but it still irritates me immensely - I'd be quite happy to have some things go wrong and end happily but there's practically nothing in this which ends badly (at least nothing that any emotion is put into). This film does have some good bits to it, though - and some neat ideas and moral points - but most of these aren't presented in the best way, and indeed come across slightly patronising at times. I'll give it the marks for some small bits of originality and trying though - I've seen far, far worse, and it wasn't an uninteresting venture.

The main story tells about a widowed father Buddy (Ronny Cox) and his two estranger daughters Beth (Natasha Gregson Wagner) and Sarah (Tracey Needham) and the relationships between each of them and their family and spouses. It's a fairly predictable and unsurprising series of events they go through, with each of the characters learning something along the way.

It's difficult to spoil a film like this with no major "twist", and almost too hard to avoid mentioning it. Personally, I didn't find it a twist (it's fairly obvious) - and the film is unsubtle in most areas of its message and story. Perhaps the most difficult thing for most people watching the film will be this event - but there is some attempt at a plausible response/reaction. Sadly, it doesn't last that long. Another big stretch of the imagination for viewers (or me at least) was the return to a family home where by some miracle (despite having been unused for a good few years) the place was fully workable and had all the furniture and ornaments intact (albeit under dust covers and in the cellar), and the key in the same place under the flower pot on the porch. I'm not sure I'd find any one of those plausible by itself, let alone a combination of all of them. The final main point of irritation is the singing and the main 'theme' song. I don't think the carols sung were very well known, although as it is the original actors singing (I presume) this is excusable (and helps make the film a bit more 'real'). The theme tune, on the other hand, becomes more and more annoying throughout the film - but not in any deliberate way, unfortunately.

Criticism aside, this film is a fun and 'feel-good' piece of work, and if you don't think about it too much, it should be enjoyed by many. Great art it isn't, but neither is it 'bad'; a slightly above average way to spend an hour and a half.

Video

One of the most pleasing things here is that it is once again in the original widescreen ratio and anamorphic - something any 'smaller' company should be proud of presenting. The bad news about the transfer is that this is another DVD-5, and whilst there are no extras this does present more compression issues. Clocking in at just under 88 minutes this isn't an incredible problem, but annoying - and there are noticeable instances where you can clearly tell the detail is not as high as it could be, especially for such a recent release (and it can't be that low budget as it has been filmed in widescreen - and is once again a Hallmark production).

Audio

Once again for this DVD from Echo Bridge, the audio track is in 5.1, although again - as with other reviews on this site of Echo Bridge 5.1 tracks - the front channels are identical and there's almost no surround (although I can't imagine any proper surround activity here anyway). The dialogue and music has some good clarity in it, but no abundance of depth (however, this film doesn't call for it).

Extras

There are a few trailers upon start-up. These are for "The Ron Clark Story" (2:46), "The Ten Commandments" (1:38) and the 'Mystery Woman' series (Snapshot; Sing Me a Murder; Mystery Weekend) (1:28).

Overall

A fun Christmas film, but one that works best on a Sunday afternoon's TV viewing - and not one I would recommend buying. It could also be worth renting, but there are many other better "Christmassy" films on the market. As I noted in my review of "Mystery Woman: Sing Me a Murder", this is another thing that could be good to catch on Hallmark again (if they ever repeat it).

The Film: C+ Video: C Audio: B- Extras: F Overall: D-

 


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