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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows

Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows is the sequel to the movie I reviewed last week, The Trouble with Angels. Rosalind Russell reprises her role as the reverend mother and many of the supporting nuns from the first picture also return for this movie. There's one new nun, Stella Stevens as Sister George, and a whole new cast of students.

Sister George is an activist, participating in protests and getting arrested time after time in the opening sequence. (This film was made in 1968.) The movie itself opens with the reverend mother having a conversation with the bishop. He's approved Sister George's request to take some students on a cross-country trip to an interfaith rally in California. The mother superior tries to get out of it, but the bishop is a "forward-thinking" man who outmaneuvers her and she finds herself forced to take this trip.

As they prepare for the journey, Sister George is there, constantly criticizing every one of her fellow sisters for not doing things the way she'd do them. They're all behind the times and stuck in tradition. Clearly, she's the only sister who has her fingers on the pulse of today's world.

The group sets off and encounters problem after problem. They run out of gas (they have a new bus) and Sister George berates Sister Clarissa who's driving. Then a group of motorcycle thugs shows up and threatens two of the girls. Sister George steps in and saves the day by facing down one thug with a knife and talking to the leader of the gang. He gets them a can of gas and lets them go on their way.

The bus stalls out on railroad tracks, just as a train is coming. The doors are all stuck, both the front exit and the emergency exit in back. The girls are climbing out the windows at the reverend mother's orders, but not everyone can get out. Fortunately, the bus starts at the last minute and they're all safe.

The bus gets a flat tire in the desolate desert and Sister George rides a conveniently located donkey, complete with reins, to get help.

The group runs into a detour that takes them 125 miles out of their way. It was marked on the map, but Sister Clarissa didn't see it. This gives Sister George another opportunity to berate her fellow nun and tell the reverend mother that they should have hired a professional driver rather than allow the incompetent sister drive. Never mind that Sister Clarissa has been driving the bus for years. Never mind that she finds pleasure in performing this task for others. Never mind that anyone can make a mistake.

Somehow, the bus ends up attacked by Indians. Our intrepid travelers fight them off, only to find out they ended up in the middle of a film set. Okay. Sure. Actors are going to attack a school bus full of students and nuns when they're supposed to be attacking covered wagons. I almost buy that. Not.

Other events of lesser importance include the group stopping at another school to stay for the night and it turning out to be a Catholic boys' boarding school. The reverend mother asks the sister in charge of finding their accommodations why they're here, but Sister George speaks up. She arranged this. Of course, the reverend mother doesn't like the idea of her girls in a dorm with all these boys, but the priest (again, clearly a forward thinker, not like the stodgy nuns) and Sister George convince her it will be okay.

While they stay there, two of the students teach the boys how to make a bomb--just like Sister George showed them back at school. After the lab explodes and the window breaks, the boy runs out to catch the departing girls' group and pay the two students for the info. He honestly can't understand that he's going to get the girls in trouble. Sigh.

The girls are assigned to wash the bus as punishment. There's a truck wash there and they decide to run the bus through--and forget to close the windows. Every single window is open and all the group's things are on the bus. The one girl, Rosabelle, played by a young Susan St. James, is supposed to be a straight-A student. It didn't occur to her until too late to close those windows?

The movie ends with the concession that of course Sister George was right, they are too set in their ways. It's time to change. We close with all the nuns in short dresses and smaller head pieces so we can see their hair. Everyone is smiling and happy.

Sorry, I couldn't resist a little commentary along the way and I probably gave out some spoilers too, but I felt it necessary to show the full scope of the picture. I hadn't seen this movie since I was about 13 or 14 and it was better in my memory than it was in real life. I think I know why I was so enchanted as a young teenager--I liked the theme song and there was a part where a boy at the ranch (after the flat tire incident) falls for Rosabelle at first sight. Unfortunately, as an adult, neither thing was able to make up for the other issues I had.

First off, Sister George was so strident and so intolerant of anyone who didn't think the way she did--hardly the attitude I'd expect from someone who supposedly wants to do good. I have no clue what the church was like in this time, so I can't say whether or not the message of the movie was on target or not, but I will say that I felt banged over the head with it over and over and over again. I don't want to be hit like that with anyone's agenda.

Secondly, could one more thing have gone wrong with the bus? It runs out of gas, it gets a flat tire, it stalls on the railroad tracks, it breaks an axle. I thought it got ridiculous after a while and I had a hard time caring about what misadventure would befall them next. It's like the scriptwriter had a checklist of what could possibly go wrong with the bus and used each and every possibility.

That's not to say the movie was all bad. Rosalind Russell gave a fine performance, especially considering the script she had to work with. I still enjoyed the theme song, although I'm not about to download it onto my MP3 player anytime soon. And there were a few cute moments along the way. Overall, I don't think I'd recommend the movie, but it wasn't a totally awful way to spend a couple of hours.

My rating: 3 stars