×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

When Angels Sing

Aimed squarely at auds seeking family-friendly, holiday-themed entertainment, "When Angels Sing" is an innocuously pleasant trifle that likely would be more at home in the Hallmark Movie Channel lineup than on thousands of megaplex screens. Still, a limited fall theatrical release could be helpful in elevating the profile of this modestly affecting drama about a man who regains his love of Christmas years after his brother's demise during the yuletide season. Pic could wind up being a popular VOD offering and DVD stocking-stuffer.

With:
With: Harry Connick Jr., Connie Britton, Chandler Canterbury, Fionnula Flanagan, Lyle Lovett, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson.

Aimed squarely at auds seeking family-friendly, holiday-themed entertainment, “When Angels Sing” is an innocuously pleasant trifle that likely would be more at home in the Hallmark Movie Channel lineup than on thousands of megaplex screens. Still, a limited fall theatrical release could be helpful in elevating the profile of this modestly affecting drama about a man who regains his love of Christmas years after his brother’s demise during the yuletide season. Pic could wind up being a popular VOD offering and DVD stocking-stuffer.

Actor-singer Harry Connick Jr. toplines as Michael Walker, an Austin college professor who’s hoping to find an affordable house for himself, his wife (Connie Britton) and their young son (Chandler Canterbury) before the home they’re currently renting is sold.

At the same time, Michael’s also plotting to once again avoid a Christmas reunion with his aging parents (Kris Kristofferson, Fionnula Flanagan) in San Antonio. Mind you, Michael has nothing against mom and dad. Indeed, he’s perfectly willing to spend Thanksgiving with the folks. But he’s been unwilling to celebrate the Dec. 25 holiday, or even put up Christmas decorations, ever since experiencing the childhood trauma of his brother’s accidental death — for which he feels responsible — on Christmas Day.

Michael can’t believe his good luck when a cheery old stranger named Nick (Willie Nelson) offers to sell him a spacious and beautifully appointed house at a fraction of the going cost for such a prime property. But, of course, there’s a catch: After the purchase, Michael discovers his home is located in a neighborhood world-famous for spectacular Christmas decorating — endless lights, live Nativity scenes, tons of fake snow, etc. — by the holiday-happy residents.

And his new neighbors, while cordial enough, can’t understand why Michael is behaving like a Grinch by not following their example.

Working from a script by Lou Berney, which in turn was adapted from a novel by Turk Pipkin, director Tim McCanlies (“The Iron Giant,” “Secondhand Lions”) maintains an even hand throughout, so that neither the moments of broad comedy nor the stretches of tearjerking sentimentality get out of hand.

Devotees of the Austin music scene may be amused at some of the bit players McCanlies has assembled; musicians ranging from Dale Watson and Marcia Ball to the Trishas and Charlie Sexton have wink-wink fleeting cameos. Texas music icon Lyle Lovett is quite funny in the somewhat larger role of a Christmas-spirited neighbor who’ll do anything, even lend Michael a decorated ladder, to spark his holiday spirit.

Speaking of music icons: Kristofferson strikes an effective balance of sagacity and melancholy as Michael’s father, while Nelson effortlessly generates so much easygoing good will that it’s easy to accept his ambiguous character might really be Santa Claus, or an angel, or whatever else Michael needs to jumpstart his seasonal ho-ho-hoing.

Connick is persuasive in a mostly non-singing role, especially in a scene (with the well-cast Canterbury) where Michael explains to his son the circumstances of his brother’s death. Britton capably handles the demands of a thinly written role.

Production values are more than adequate, though a scene shot in Canada that involves ice-skating looks a bit startling in the context of a pic otherwise filmed almost entirely in and around Austin.

When Angels Sing

Production: A Frank Miller Prods. production in associated with EYA Prods. Produced by Elizabeth Avellan, Fred Miller, Shannon McIntosh. Executive producers, Scott Rankin, Sharon Rankin. Co-producers, Dominic Cancilla, Turk Pipkin. Directed by Tim McCanlies. Screenplay, Lou Berney, based on the book by Turk Pipkin.

Crew: Camera (color), Kamal Derkaoui; editor, David Rosenblatt; music, Carl Thiel, Scott Warren; music supervisor, Roanna Gillespie; production designer, Christopher Stull; art director, Marcus LaPorte; set decorator, David Hack; costume designer, Kari Perkins; sound, Ben Lowry; assistant director, Bobby Bastarache; casting, J.C. Cantu. Reviewed at SXSW Film Festival (Headliners), March 10, 2013. Running time: 86 MIN.

Cast: With: Harry Connick Jr., Connie Britton, Chandler Canterbury, Fionnula Flanagan, Lyle Lovett, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson.

More Scene

  • Billy Eichner Power of Pride Variety

    Billy Eichner on Taylor Swift's 'Calm Down' Backlash

    When Taylor Swift released her “You Need to Calm Down” music video, it seemed like every member of the LGBTQ in Hollywood was included — except for Billy Eichner. “I’m still not gay enough for Taylor Swift — or too gay — I don’t know what it is,” Eichner joked at Variety’s Power of Pride [...]

  • Bebe Rexha

    Mumford and Sons, Sting, Ciara, Bebe Rexha Light Up Cannes Lions

    There was no shortage of excellent music at the 2019 edition of Cannes Lion. The international gathering of creatives drew top music brands – among them: Spotify, Live Nation, iHeartRadio, SiriusXM/Pandora, VEVO and Universal Music Group – and a slew of well-known acts to stages across the Croissette, to villas above the city and onto [...]

  • Patrick Wilson

    Patrick Wilson, Mckenna Grace on Scary Stories From 'Annabelle Comes Home' Set

    Tales of spooky occurrences on the sets of horror movies like “The Exorcist” and “Poltergeist” have circulated for years, and it looks like “The Conjuring” franchise is following in their footsteps in that regard. The cast of “Annabelle Comes Home” shared their unnerving stories from set at the film’s premiere on Thursday night at the Regency [...]

  • Donald Trump Chucky Childs Play

    'Child's Play' Stars on New Chucky's 'Creepy' Resemblance to Donald Trump

    At Wednesday night’s world premiere of the “Child’s Play” remake, it was obvious that evil doll Chucky — the star of seven films over three decades — had a little work done. And now he bears a striking resemblance to Donald Trump. “Oh, you caught that?” Aubrey Plaza asked Variety on the black carpet outside [...]

  • Cara Delevingne attends The Trevor Project's

    Cara Delevingne Recalls Producers Saying That Being Queer Will Hurt Her Career

    Hollywood may be celebrating LGBTQ Pride Month with displays of the rainbow flag and lots of talk about supporting diversity and inclusion, but Cara Delevingne says there’s still work to be done. “Behind closed doors, we are still being told, as I have, by powerful Hollywood producers that we can’t make it if we’re queer,” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content