Home Of Angels

1994, Movie, R, 90 mins


With its falsely upbeat approach to Alzheimer's disease and homelessness, the sticky-sweet HOME OF ANGELS plays like a PSA masquerading as timely drama. Although it merits consideration for delving into topics rarely addressed in children's movies, its good intentions are undone by its cutesy tone.

More than a grandfather, Grandpa (Abe Vigoda) is the best fishing mate and closest pal little Billy (Lance Robinson) has ever known. But Grandpa is confined in a nursing home with Alzheimer's disease, and Billy's father (Craig Sechler) and mother (Karin Wolfe) are reluctant to let him visit. Billy secretly embarks on a holiday rescue mission, taking the Long Island Rail Road to Penn Station in New York City, then hopping the Amtrak to Philadelphia, where he meets the feisty inhabitants of his Grandpa's convalescent home. While the golden-agers distract the facility's nursing staff, Billy and his bewildered Grandpa hightail it out of there. They quickly run afoul of a street gang, who taunt them and rough them up. With the delinquents in hot pursuit, Billy and Grandpa are hidden by Buzzard Bracken (Sherman Hemsley), a homeless person who hates the teen pushers. Buzzard, a former prizefighter, insists they spend the night in a cardboard shanty town. When the adolescent riff-raff penetrate the homeless camp, the bag people at first can't shake off their customary anomie, but Buzzard and his band eventually rescue Billy and Gramps. While Billy's parents fret and the police search Penn Station, the homeless people panhandle to raise cab fare for Billy's return home, rediscovering their dignity through an act of charity. Grandpa and Billy, miraculously buoyed by their journey, have a joyous Christmas reunion on Long Island with their family.

Although HOME OF ANGELS has its heart in the right place, its brain is out to lunch. Alzheimer's patients do not get better, and despite moments of clarity under good circumstances, these frightened sufferers would not respond well to a terrifying safari through the urban jungle. Grimly determined to be uplifting at all costs, this kid flick sacrifices logic and plausibility from the get-go. Where did Billy get the money for those expensive train rides? Couldn't Billy and Grandpa have found a transit cop to assist them? Why are all the old people in the senior home so spry and robust? Have the producers of this holiday treat ever been in a nursing home? Shamelessly overacted, unattractively photographed, and directed with anvil-like finesse, this sentimental piece of exploitation won't fool even the kids. Portraying the homeless as thrift-shop cut-ups is no less insensitive than intimating that Alzheimer's patients will get better if they're showered with love. (Violence, profanity.) leave a comment

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