Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings. And when that same angel offends the creator, those wings get clipped and he's banished to live like a bum on Earth. At least that's the way things work according to "Fallen," an ABC Family original movie based on Tom Sniegoski's book series.

Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings. And when that same angel offends the creator, those wings get clipped and he’s banished to live like a bum on Earth. At least that’s the way things work according to “Fallen,” an ABC Family original movie based on Tom Sniegoski’s book series. More mythology than theology, pic is heavy on setup, especially considering two more installments won’t air until later in 2007. But if one goes by the old adage to leave ‘em for asking for more, then “Fallen” could be a success.

Pic follows the books closely in plot, if not detail, keeping open the opportunity for Paul Wesley’s character, Aaron Corbett, to return for more mysterious angelic adventures. One big difference between movie and book sure to ruffle feathers — angels’ and otherwise — is that a woman plays Aaron’s archnemesis, Verchiel. One would assume the switch was made to balance out an otherwise testosterone-laden movie, but the change throws a wrench in the mythology established by the books.

Aaron discovers on his 18th birthday that he’s Nephilim — part angel, part human. And despite what CBS would have us believe, angels don’t look or act like Roma Downey. They can be nasty, bloodthirsty creatures. And apparently bad eye makeup is part of the deal, too.

As Aaron starts to transform, he gets odd sensations, can suddenly understand different languages and displays unusual bursts of strength. When his dog Gabriel starts talking back to him, he gets really worried. Aaron receives help from Zeke (Tom Skerritt), a local homeless man and fallen angel in disguise, who knows Aaron’s true identity. Apparently, there aren’t many like Aaron, since humans and angels aren’t a good combination. Most don’t live through the transition.

To make matters worse, there’s also a sect of angels called the Powers, led by Verchiel (Lisa Lackey), who try to eliminate the Nephilim from the world.

Traces of author Sniegoski’s affiliation with “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” via his TV novellas are obvious. There’s a reluctant chosen one, a prophecy, a protector of said chosen one. But comparisons end there. Sara Cooper’s script is big on talk but doesn’t have the snappy dialogue that made “Buffy” both fun and frightening. The symbolism is also oversimplified, but just in case viewers get thrown, director Mikael Salomon has come up with a clever code: The bad guys dress in white and the good guys wear black.

Cooper and Salomon win points for delving further into character development than one might expect. Pic deftly addresses Aaron’s unpleasant past without pity.

Action special effects aren’t bad. The light saber/lasso devices the Angels use in battle are pretty cool, but director Salomon uses too many camera gimmicks to evoke Aaron’s confused mindset. We get it. Aaron thinks he’s going crazy, so why make everyone nauseous in the process?

Fallen

ABC Family; Sun., July 23, 8 p.m.

Production

Filmed in Vancouver, B.C., by ABC Family in association with Three Angels Prods. Executive producers, Jay Sanders, Pete Donaldson, Sara B. Cooper, Mikael Salomon; producer, Patti Allen; co-producer, Rose Lam; director, Mikael Salomon; writer, Sara B. Cooper, based on the novel by Tom Sneigoski.

Crew

Camera, Jon Joffin; music, David C. Williams; casting, Sandi Logan. Running Time: 120 MIN.

Cast

Aaron Corbett - Paul Wesley Zeke - Tom Skerritt Camael - Rick Worthy Verchiel - Lisa Lackey Vilma - Fernana Andrade Lori Corbett - Chela Haorsdal Tom Corbett - Russell Porter Stevie Corbett - Alex Ferris

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