We're No Angels

Directed by Michael Curtiz

> > Oct 2005

We're No Angels - Directed by Michael Curtiz
By Travis Mackenzie HooverThis is more along the lines of We're No Masterpiece; it's a bone-dry farce that's constantly on the verge of being Hitchcockian ghoulish fun but never has the conviction to take the plunge. It's 1895 and three convicts (pragmatist Humphrey Bogart, the rakish Aldo Ray and the fussy Peter Ustinov) have escaped the prison at Devil's Island. But when they find a merchant family who naïvely take them in they like them so much that they do their best to make their lives better. By this I mean they try to cook the books at the father's failing store and manipulate events so that the daughter's true love can fall into her arms — in theory, anyway. There's a lot of blasé talk about murder and theft and statutory rape, but you know that nobody really means it; it's the kind of movie where someone talks about a wife's untimely demise and everyone chortles urbanely at his low-key naughtiness. Putting aside the fact that it's from a moment in history when spousal murder could wring laughs from an audience, there's also the fact that nobody's getting anywhere near genuine murder — all the really nasty crimes happen off-screen, thus protecting our heroes from any real audience censure. All this I could handle if it had the verve and snap of something like The Trouble with Harry, but though it's directed by the stalwart Michael Curtiz and well-designed for Technicolour, there's a certain air of nobody meaning it — at least Hitchcock had guts to stand by his own perversity. You won't have a painful time but it lands just this side of satisfying and leaves you wanting just a little more than you actually got. And we're no fans of that. (Paramount)

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