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MOVIE REVIEW : 'Almost' Is Almost a Good Film

December 19, 1990|KEVIN THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"Almost an Angel" (citywide) might just as well be called " 'Crocodile' Dundee Gets Religion." As amiable as ever, lean and leathery Paul Hogan plays a career criminal and electronics wizard who, fresh out of prison, assumes a hilariously precise Willie Nelson impersonation and knocks over a bank. Before he can do a repeat performance, this time disguised as Rod Stewart, he instinctively rushes into oncoming traffic to shove a toddler to safety.

The next thing Hogan knows he's up in the clouds being interviewed by the Big Probation Officer in the Sky, played to perfection in his silvery Moses mane and beard by an unbilled Charlton Heston. In a stroke of inspiration, Hogan--who is the film's writer as well as its executive producer--keeps us guessing whether he has actually died or has just dreamed he did, but fails to make anything of the dilemma.

Indeed, after a lively and imaginative start, the film is downhill, a treacly business about how Hogan, now on the lam, lands in Fillmore, where he comes to the rescue of the dying young operator (Elias Koteas) of a recreation center for latch-key kids and his acerbic sister (Linda Kozlowski). Koteas and Kozlowski are likable, but their roles are pretty thankless.

The chronic dearth of family films, plus Hogan's undeniable laid-back appeal, may work to the film's advantage over the holidays, but "Almost an Angel" really belongs on the tube. It was produced and directed with warmth and efficiency by John Cornell, who produced Hogan's Australian TV programs and created with Hogan the Australian Tourist Commission's celebrated advertising campaign for the United States.

To the filmmakers' credit they fill the film's countless small roles with numerous minority actors and with such seasoned veterans as Doreen Lang (as Koteas and Kozlowski's mother), Parley Baer and Hank Worden. "Almost an Angel" (rated PG but G is more like it), which is enlivened by Maurice Jarre's helpfully melodramatic score, is in the Christmas spirit but is a disappointment in the wake of the "Crocodile" Dundee movies.

'Almost an Angel'

Paul Hogan: Terry Dean

Elias Koteas: Steve Garner

Linda Kozlowski: Rose Garner

Doreen Lang: Mrs. Garner

A Paramount presentation of an Ironbark Films production. Producer-director John Cornell. Executive producer-writer Paul Hogan. Cinematographer Russell Boyd. Editor David Stiven. Costumes April Ferry. Music Maurice Jarre. Production design Henry Bumstead. Art director Bernie Cutler. Set designers John Harris, Louis M. Mann. Set decorator Richard Goddard. Sound Tom Brandeau.

x. Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes.

MPAA-rated PG (more a G; suitable for all ages).

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