Natasha Gregson Wagner and Tracey Needham in Angel in the Family (2004)

An Angel Returns

Sometime after his wife passed away Buddy Brice (Ronny Cox) is living with his daughter Sarah (Tracey Needham) in LA but with nothing to do he is feeling lost and a bit of a spare part. When a stroke sees him rushed to hospital it brings back his other daughter, career minded Beth (Natasha Gregson Wagner) who doesn't get along with her sister. But Buddy decides that he wants to go home, not to Sarah's but to Trinity, the family home which has remained empty ever since his wife, Lorraine (Meredith Baxter), passed away. But the girls are in for a surprise when they get there because after Sarah makes a wish the following morning Lorraine appears as an angel, back for one final Christmas with the family.

For the first 50 minutes I loved "Angel in the Family" it put a collection of characters in place and was building nicely with a sense of mystery and fun. But then it happened and something went wrong, no I am not on about the idea of a mother returning as an angel for one final Christmas but the smoothness of the movie went missing. "Angel in the Family" suddenly became rushed and clunky and after such a crafted build up it was disappointing especially seeing there was some terrific casting and a solid deeper message working alongside the entertainment.

Ronny Cox and Meredith Baxter in Angel in the Family (2004)

Now to me the point of "Angel in the Family" is the magical return of Lorraine as an angel and the reason she returns which is to fix problems within the family, such as Sarah's lack of self esteem, Beth's struggle with the idea of having a child and Buddy being lost with out her. Yet for me the best part of the movie is the actual build up to Lorraine's magical return, which in fairness is a bit of a cliche as we quickly discover that Buddy, Sarah and Lorraine have these unresolved issues. When they decide to return to Trinity it is brilliant, the setting is magnificent and the whole magical side as things starts happening for no reason likes beds suddenly being made is fun and they do a good job of signalling as to what is to come.

And then we have the return of Lorraine which is a magical scene especially with the state of shock on Sarah and Beth's faces when suddenly they see their late mother as if she had never been gone. But then after such a nice build up "Angel in the Family" starts to feel rushed and clunky, Lorraine sits down with Beth to talk to her about her issues, she does the same with Sarah and then before we know it everyone is happy. It just needed more fleshing and smoothing out so that it didn't feel clunky, although even when it is clunky it still gets across its various messages.

The thing which takes you aback other than the setting is some wonderful casting and Tracey Needham and Natasha Gregson Wagner are well cast as chalk and cheese sisters who bicker like they are still children. But the most stunning thing is the similarity between Tracey Needham and Meredith Baxter; it is almost spooky how similar they look and it almost makes "Angel in the Family" believable. Elsewhere there is the always reliable Ronny Cox as Buddy and it is a pleasantly fun yet touching performance from Cox.

What this all boils down to is that there is much to love about "Angel in the Family" such as the setting, cast as well as the messages it is getting across. But unfortunately for me the second half of this Christmas movie feels rushed and clunky which lets down what could have been a great Christmas movie.

Tags: TV Christmas Movies, Christmas Movies