A floppy-haired guardian angel falls for the British redhead he's supposed to protect.
A floppy-haired guardian angel falls for the British redhead he’s supposed to protect in “Meant to Be,” a lush Puerto Rico-set romantic comedy that cheerfully proceeds as if Wim Wenders’ “Wings of Desire” — or even its mainstream remake, “City of Angels” — never existed. Technically, this second stab at an English-language project by Belgian producer-turned-helmer Paul Breuls (“The Hessen Affair”) hits all the marks, though the actors’ fizzy energy never quite compensates for the elementary screenplay. “Meant” goes out in limited release Stateside this fall before a no-doubt safer landing in ancillary.
During the peppy opening sequence, cheerful Brit architect Amanda (Kelly Reilly, “Sherlock Holmes”) leaves her home for Puerto Rico, where she hopes she’ll be assigned to work on an old church. Her supernatural chaperone, Will (Julian Rhind-Tutt, “Stardust”), travels along and keeps her safe from harm, and the chuckle-inducing if somewhat shopworn comedy engendered by his eternal invisibility to her is a good indicator of the pic’s basic m.o.
Main motor of the drama in actress-turned-screenwriter Kara Holden’s screenplay is Will’s dismissal after arriving in Puerto Rico, because his red-haired charge is about to meet the love of her life. Upon hearing this, Will realizes he could be that love if only he were human. With some help from heaven’s equivalent of James Bond’s Q, Archie (Kris Marshall), he gets to walk the earth in the flesh for a week to try to win the girl’s heart.
Setup is pacey, with bright colors, some neat special effects and the inevitable introduction of Will’s direct competitor: Benjamin (Santiago Cabrera), a handsome local who turns out to be an architect too. Egged on by her designer friend (Mia Maestro), Amanda considers both suitors, though she quickly realizes Will isn’t human in quite the same way as his rival.
The plot-twists and misunderstandings that follow often feel perfunctory, but are efficiently handled, though there’s a nagging sense throughout that the pic seems to think it’s more original than it is. But there’s none of the poetry or larger sociohistorical ruminations of Wenders’ film, or even a single scene that is particularly memorable, such as Brad Pitt’s first encounter with peanut butter in the similar-themed “Meet Joe Black.” Everything seems to take place in a fantasy-world vacuum (inspired by tourism brochures and cute bedtime stories) that doesn’t extend for an inch beyond the screen. While there are no obvious errors in execution, there are never any fireworks, either.
It’s up to the actors to breathe some life into the stock characters, and the central trio are a very affable bunch, with the three thesps expertly bouncing off each other’s different acting styles (Reilly is cool yet girly, Rhind-Tutt preppy and charmingly clueless, and Cabrera suave, with a hint of menace). Maestro plays her thankless Latina girlfriend role much too broadly, while Marshall, as the heavenly inventor, repeats essentially the same shtick that made him stand out in “Love Actually.”
Tech finish is impressively slick on what must have been a modest budget, with Puerto Rico looking more like a tropical fairyland than the real thing.