“Splash with Wings.” I imagine that was the simple phrase used to pitch the 1987 film “Date with an Angel.” After all “Splash” hit it big with the story of a guy who falls in love with a mermaid. So why not try that same formula again, but replace the mermaid with an angel?
The film tells the story of Jim Sanders (Michael E Knight), a wannabe composer who is about to marry rich girl Patty Winston (Phoebe Cates). Patty’s father (David Dukes) runs a cosmetics company and is planning on giving Jim a job, if he can get his act together. Patty also happens to be a model and the face of her father’s cosmetics line.
On the evening of Jim and Patty’s snooty engagement party, three of Jim’s friends crash the party, dressed as terrorists, and kidnap Jim for his bachelor party. The next morning, hung over in his apartment, Jim awakens to the sound of something splash landing in the swimming pool. What he finds floating in the water is a beautiful angel (Emmanuelle Beart). We’re not talking angel as in how people call each other pet names like “angel,” or “honey,” or “sugar buns,” we’re talking a real angel…wings and all. But, after her fall, one wing is out of commission, so Jim allows her stay at his place while she heals.
Unfortunately, Jim is not very good at hiding his new houseguest. When Patty spots her, she assumes Jim is having an affair. Of course, she looses it. When his buddies stop by, they see that the girl is actually and angel and immediately they see dollar signs. They start planning merchandising and press conferences. Meanwhile, Patty’s father decides to go and beat some sense into Jim. One glance at the hypnotic gaze of the angel, however, stops him. Not only that, but he decides that this girl has to be the new face of his cosmetics line, which has been stumbling with the current ad campaign featuring Patty. News of his idea just sends Patty into a deeper rage.
So, the story ends up focusing on the various people around Jim…his buddies who want to exploit the angel, his future father-in-law who wants to hire the angel, and Patty who just wants to kill them both. This leaves little time for the love story to develop. Once Jim takes the angel to an old tree house of his to hide, there is some chance for the romance to develop…but it’s never very believable. It doesn’t help that the angel can’t speak English, she’s only capable of squeaking like a dolphin. This makes any sort of deep meaningful relationship a wee bit difficult. Still, as the movie goes on, Jim is falling for her…but how can they ever be together?
I gotta admit, the movie is more enjoyable than I thought it would be. It’s sweet, with a few laughs, but nowhere near the level of comedy as the similarly themed “Splash.” But there was one big thing that bugged me throughout the film. So, ok, Emmanuelle Beart falls out of the sky and lands in your swimming pool. I get it, she’s very beautiful…but here’s the thing, you’re already engaged to Phoebe Cates! PHOEBE CATES!! It’s not like the character she plays is some mean you-know-what. Her character is likeable, driven to extreme anger when she thinks her fiancée is having an affair (which by the way, is the comedic highlight of the film). And besides, SHE’S PHOEBE CATES!!! What red-blooded American male would dump the ultimate 80’s dream girl?!? So what if a heavenly beauty lands in your pool!! Phoebe Cates…dude!
Cates is the highlight of the film, showing a great flair for comedy. Though Emmanuelle Beart doesn’t have any dialogue, she does manage to win the audience over with her performance as well. However, I do think not giving her character a voice, or a name, was a huge miscalculation on the part of the filmmakers. While we’re on the subject of miscalculations, and without giving anything away, I will say that the ending of the film is a bit morbid. Though it all turns out well, it deals with some stuff that really seems out-of-place in a lighthearted rom-com.
When it’s all said and done, I admit I enjoyed “Date with an Angel.” Though, oddly enough, I was rooting for the hero to not end up with the angel in the end. I mean, dude, you’re engaged to Phoebe Cates!!!! Yikes, let’s not go there again.