D. K. Stokes | 11/22/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Robert DeNiro and Sean Penn are 1920s-era convicts who are dragged along when a vicious killer escapes the electric chair. They end up in a town near the Canadian border, and are mistaken for a pair of priests expected at the local monastery.
So they masquerade as priests while looking for an opportunity to cross the border into Canada. An opportunity presents itself in the form of a procession/pilgrimage to the church's sister church across the border. Each priest participating has to bring along someone who needs help, so they decide on the deaf daughter of local laundress and prostitute, played by Demi Moore.
This version (there's a 1955 version, but there's no similarity between the movies at all) is billed as a comedy, but it's much more a drama, or maybe an allegory, though I don't have the time or inclination to delve into what it's an allegory for. There are humorous moments, to be sure, but it's not a laugh-aloud comedy at all.
It's about life-changing events, about miracles. We never do learn why DeNiro and Penn's characters were in prison to begin with, but we don't need to know. They begin as buddies, but the masquerade affects them in different ways. Penn's character thrives in the monastic life, despite, or maybe because of his ignorance. DeNiro and Moore's characters are world-weary and cynical, but they too are affected by the miraculous.
The movie leaves it up to the viewers to decide if the miracles are divine or human, but there's just enough mystery to allow you to believe if you want to.
We're No Angels leaves me with the same sort of feeling that Christmas movies like Miracle on 34th Street do--a kind of uplifted feeling, and a renewed faith in the human spirit. Or maybe I'm just feeling sappy."