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  Angelito Mio Heaven must be missing an Angel
Year: 1999
Director: Enrique Pineda Barnet
Stars: Daniela Luján, Jacobo Morales, Leticia Caldern, Braulio Castillo, Carlos Bonavides, Elia Enid Cadilla, Lidy López, Jos Rafael Arango, Pedro Ivan Bonilla, Myrna Casas, Jaime Irizarry, Chavito Marrero, Camila Monclova, Felix Monclova, Amanda Nemcik
Genre: Musical, Comedy, Drama, Weirdo, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Heaven is in chaos. Little angel Maria de las Estrallas (Daniela Luján) learns God has left for Earth to find hope amidst humanity. Meanwhile, egomaniacal Saint Wichon (Carlos Bonavides) has taken charge of the Celestial Senate and transformed heaven into a garish, Las Vegas style tourist trap complete with cotton clouds, cardboard stars and policeman who keep other angels in line. In dismay, Maria descends to Earth to search for God, awakening in a storybook town full of vibrant, oversaturated colours and dancing citizens. Callous cops imprison Maria and her newfound friends Sebastian and Cecilia at an all-singing, all-dancing orphanage, where they are terrorised by the maniacal headmistress and mean brats led by bully Belinda (Amanda Nemcik). Eventually, Maria is adopted by Senor Roberto de Aguilar, a wealthy businessman whose wife is deeply depressed since they cannot conceive a child. Here, Maria shelters teen runaway Ricky (Lidy López) from his gang The Vultures and meets an amiable, old gardener who seems strangely familiar.

Now this is a weird one. A Mexican children's film that encompasses religious satire, musical comedy and feel-good fantasy, without ever truly succeeding at either. Crayola coloured cartoon credits underline that this is meant to be a child's eye view of metaphysical matters. Where is God?, Maria de las Estralla's repeated refrain is one uttered by many a mortal here on Earth, and the offbeat premise raises hope this will be decidedly ambitious childrens movie. The central idea, that one must look for God amidst the everyday deeds and decency of ordinary folk, is admittedly thought-provoking, much of the philosophical asides displayed here are at best obtuse and at worse trite. Angelito Mio comes across as an overly earnest pre-school play, too scattershot and muddled to work on even a simplistic level like say, The Littlest Angel (1968).

Most of the authority figures Maria meets, be they priests, cops or egomaniacal angels, are ill-tempered and intolerant, yet whatever satirical intent writer-director Enrique Pineda Barnet has in mind is fumbled by his chaotically cluttered storytelling. Things happen with little rhyme or reason. Why does Wichon suddenly appear disguised as Senor Aguilar's manservant? He does nothing besides glower at Maria and try to frame Ricky for robbery. Why did Ricky run away from his parents? Why does Belinda embrace the leader of the Vultures, a character she's never even met, as hes carted away by the cops? Your guess is as good as mine. Further detracting from the main narrative are bizarre asides like the growing passion between the headmistress and her right-hand man, or Ricky's mom being soap star. Pineda Barnet dwells on these when he should be illustrating how Maria brings hope back into people's lives, something the film implies rather than shows.

What it does have going for it are some painterly visuals, a handful of poignant episodes, one inspired idea in Saint Wichon's invention of rose-coloured glasses that convince everyone everything is fine, and an appealing lead turn from young Daniela Luján. She sings and dances like a trooper but, while the bubblegum pop and samba driven score by Pedro Rivero Toledo is pleasant enough, the songs are far too syrupy and recall those L.A. soul efforts that plagued Disney and DreamWorks animations throughout the Nineties.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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