A word of warning to audiences: Don't go in expecting halos and robes from John Travolta's extremely worldly angel character in "Michael" or you'll be sorely disappointed.
Some audiences will obviously be put off by his depiction of the famed archangel as randy, raunchy and paunchy, which is as far from the biblical descriptions of him as you can get. And the famed painter Michelangelo would never have dared to create schlumpy heavenly hosts who enjoy smoking, sugar, fights and even sex.
But if you can get past the good-natured film's sacrilegious concepts - and it may be a serious question some viewers think about before going - you may be surprised at how funny Travolta is as its scroungy-looking, hard-loving but still lovable title character.
One of the original angelic warriors who fought Satan, Michael has been performing minor miracles on Earth ever since. Most recently, he has turned a small bank in Iowa into "a parking lot" to help out Patsy Milbank (Jean Stapleton), a hotel owner with financial troubles.
That bit of notoriety, as well as a letter from Patsy, brings Michael's existence to the attention of Frank Quinlan (William Hurt), a once-famous journalist who's now toiling for a tabloid newspaper.
Frank's boss (Bob Hoskins) is understandably excited and sends him out to find Michael, accompanied by his partner, Huey Driscoll (Robert Pastorelli); the newspaper's canine mascot, Sparky; and Dorothy Winters (Andie MacDowell), a supposed expert on angels.
But when they get to Iowa, the quarreling trio finds a middle-aged guy with wings, as well as a pot belly, who smokes and who likes a lot of sugar on his breakfast cereal. Despite their obvious disbelief, Michael agrees to go back with them to Chicago, as long as they do him some favors - he wants Dorothy to sing when the moment is right, and he wants Frank to apologize when Michael tells him to.
The other catch is that the journey must be by car, since Michael isn't exactly comfortable flying on a plane. During the course of the trek, he charms a bar full of beautiful women, starts a brawl in that same bar and even manages to work a little magic between lonely hearts Frank and Dorothy.
As you can tell, this is not "The Greatest Story Ever Told" or even "Touched By An Angel," for that matter. But "Michael" is awfully funny at times, especially the scene in which this battle-hungry warrior butts heads with a bull and walks away from it.
Working from a script that she helped co-write, Nora Ephron ("Sleepless in Seattle") directs things with an appropriate and almost feathery light touch. Unfortunately, she does push the taste barrier way too far (does Michael really have to seduce and bed a waitress?).
She is definitely helped by a great cast, however, especially Travolta, who's so charming that you may forget how irreverent things really are here.
Also, Hurt is as warm as he's been in years, while MacDowell shows off a surprisingly decent singing voice. And Hoskins (playing a thinly disguised parody of Australian multimedia owner Rupert Murdock), Pastorelli and Stapleton might have stolen things if Travolta wasn't so darn good.