Plot: The Pittsburgh Pirates are mired in an epic slump and to reporter Jennifer Paige (Janet Leigh), the cause seems rather obvious. In her opinion, the hot tempered, foul mouthed manager McGovern (Paul Douglas) is the reason for the slide, as she thinks his negative attitude is like an anchor on his players. As she explains this to her boss, she expects little will happen, but he tells her to write the story and look into McGovern, whose surly persona is all too well known. So she begins to research the man for her article, meanwhile McGovern himself is visited by a quite unexpected presence, the voice of an angel. At first he assumes it is some kind of prank, but the angel seems to be real and tells McGovern that he must turn around his attitude. If he is able to end his cruel ways, then perhaps the angels can assist the Pirates in this dismal season. But is the angel truly real or has McGovern finally cracked?
Entertainment Value: This movie inspired a remake and a slew of spin-offs decades later, but this is the original Angels in the Outfield. I wouldn’t call the movies that followed religious per se, but this original has less emphasis on the supernatural elements of the angels and focuses more on being a better person, so it is more grounded from that perspective. The narrative is similar, but this one is more about McGovern’s growth as a person, rather than the angels helping the team chase wins, so it has a different kind of vibe. The baseball element is still a central theme and I loved seeing so much classic footage of the sport, but this Angels in the Outfield is more character driven, which I appreciated. I like how the conflict is so simple, as McGovern curses too much and has a bad attitude, it gives the message some weight, but doesn’t feel like he’s being asked to climb some insurmountable obstacle. The tone is light and humorous, but I don’t think the laughs are all that consistent and in truth, I felt Angels in the Outfield is a little on the slow side. Even so, it is a solid watch and has some fun performances, so it is recommended. I think fans of Janet Leigh and old school baseball will likely be the most interested, however.
McGovern is supposed to be the “roughest guy you ever met” and Paul Douglas does bring some over the top anger to the role, at least until he starts crossing paths with our angel, of course. I think the scenes where he goes into cursing fits are so bizarre, as the audio layers several dialogue chains on top of each other, which ends up sounding like some kind of occult ritual. Which I suppose explains how McGovern accidentally summoned an angel, so that makes sense. Douglas is able to be gruff when he needs to be and as he mellows, he conveys the barely restrained temper quite well, as the frustration is always more than evident. I think Janet Leigh tends to steal the show however, in a fun effort that I wish was given more screen time. But her role is a prominent one, so she is around to entertain us in a number of scenes. Overall, the performances here are fine, but not all that memorable outside of the leads. The cast also includes Keenan Wynn, King Donovan, Donna Corcoran, and in a small part, Tor Johnson.
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