Those clone-happy folks at Disney (see “The Mighty Ducks” 1, 2 and 3) spin the 1994 sleeper “Angels in the Outfield” into this lightweight but heartwarming “Wonderful World of Disney” presentation that shows us angels can score touchdowns as well as slam home runs. Now, if these celestial types could only do something to rescue ABC’s primetime fortunes (“Angels in the Scheduling Room”?), Disney might have something.
Film’s “Boy Meets Spirit” angle finds Christopher Lloyd reprising the role of chief cherub Al that he originated in “Angels in the Outfield.” He’s appropriately wiggy and Lloyd-like, and Paul Dooley’s entertaining turn as a hapless high school football coach infuses the film with a necessary comic energy.
But for the most part, this is prototypical Disney live-action family fare, easy on the eyes and ears and geared to the kiddies even more so than was “Outfield.” Tender script by Alan Eisenstock and Larry Mintz seems to convey the message that winning football games is the most important thing in life, eclipsing even the death of a parent on the significance scale.
Film stars Matthew Lawrence as Jesse Harper, a kid who loses his desire to play for his sad-sack high school football team following the tragic death of his father. He mopes around as any kid might, puzzling the other members of his family who seem to have recovered from the trauma far more quickly.
But because losing football games is such a downer, Jesse’s kid brother Kevin (David Gallagher) turns to the sky and seeks heavenly intervention to turn the squad into a winner. Sure enough, Al soon appears, leading several of his fellow winged apparitions onto the gridiron and straight-away transforming the school into the Little Team That Could.
The problem is that only Kevin can see the angels doing their pigskin stuff, making it difficult to convince his still-grieving older brother and mother (Lynda Boyd) that he hasn’t lost touch with reality. It ruins nothing to note that everything ties up more or less happily, except for that, you know, dead dad thing. Up with touchdowns, down with tombstones.
Lawrence comes through with a believable performance as a devastated teen, though he’s eclipsed by the cuteness quotient of young Gallagher. And Dooley, with his expressive face and neurotic style, is always a kick to watch. It’s a mystery why the man doesn’t work more in TV.
Helmer Gary Nadeau does a credible job keeping the heart-tugging elements on track.
Tech credits are swell.