January 13, 1997 12:00 PM

John Travolta, Andie MacDowell, William Hurt, Robert Pastorelli

This movie trashes traditional religion, patronizes the Midwest, squeezes laughs out of a dying dog and a sick old woman, scorns marriage and romance and bashes men gleefully. Yet it buys into the notion that angels might really exist. Go figure.

Travolta, who displays no gift for irony or whimsy, plays an unorthodox angel—a paunchy slob with moth-eaten wings who smokes, hits the bottle and chases women, even as he is on some unspecified angelic assignment in Iowa. Director Nora Ephron fails to make original use of Travolta, looking for laughs by having him perform his Pulp Fiction dance to Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools.” In fact, most of the script, by Ephron, her sister Delia and others, displays a dearth of ingenuity, grace, wit and taste.

Hurt, the hapless MacDowell and Pastorelli play cynical tabloid reporters hunting down the hapless angel. The venerable Jean Stapleton offers one of the few bright moments as the rambunctious motel owner who discovers Travolta’s powers. (PG-13)

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