The film starts with the workings of the "National Mirror", a Chicago-based tabloid which specializes in unbelievable tales. Vartan Malt (Bob Hoskins), the editor, has just heard the story of an old woman living with an actual angel somewhere in rural Iowa. He immediately sends a team to investigate. Well, it's not exactly the best team, but it will have to do. Frank Quinlan (William Hurt), is a cynical reporter whose career has declined over the years. Huey Driscoll (Robert Pastorelli) is a naive photographer. His main claim to fame is bringing to the newspaper Sparky the Wonder Dog, its recognizable mascot. The dog joins missions and has become a media darling, since for some reason the public loves it. The trio is accompanied by newbie Dorothy Winters (Andie MacDowell), a supposed "angel expert". Actually, a dog trainer intended to replace Huey, not that the other two know.
The trio visit the elderly Pansy Milbank (Jean Stapleton) and meet her housemate Michael. He has the wings of an angel. But hardly the stereotypical behavior. Michael is a womanizer, a chain-smoker, addicted to sweets and his speech contains several vulgarisms. He claims that angels are allowed to take vacations on Earth. Well, this is the last vacation allowed to him. He is going to enjoy it to the fullest.
Milbank suddenly dies. Michael joins our trio in a road trip to Chicago. He wants to see the Sears Tower before leaving for good. Several events follow. Including Sparky getting killed by a truck and then resurrected by Michael. Meanwhile, sexual tension develops between Frank and Dorothy. Which leaves them uneasy, because they have a history of poor relationships. By the end of the film, Michael departs. After ensuring that Frank and Dorothy are getting married. As he explained much earlier in the film, "I invented marriage".
This film provides examples of:
- Angels in Overcoats: Although it's autumn in Iowa and everyone's wearing overcoats, the titular angel wears a trenchcoat most of the time, indoors and out, specifically to hide his wings.
- Art Imitates Art: The bar brawl with Michael fighting with a pool cue and garbage can lid is very similar to many famous Renaissance paintings of Michael fighting Satan.
- Bar Brawl: Instigated by Michael's Chick Magnet aura, he and Frank are briefly Back-to-Back Badasses, its even in the rating's discriptor .
- Blood Knight: Well, he is an archangel. Specifically, he's the angel of battle, who led God's armies against Satan and is considered the patron of military and law enforcement. This being a comedy, however, this only surfaces when he challenges a bull (and wins) and gets into a Bar Brawl. (Michael is also considered a healer, which can explain his restoring Sparky to life and his In Mysterious Ways actions below.
- Cast from Hit Points: At one point Michael is able to bring Sparky back to life after the dog is hit by a car, but at the cost of most of the energy remaining to him for his current time on Earth.
- Character Title
- Crazy Consumption: Apparently when you're an angel, adding eight spoonfuls of sugar to anything you eat is par for the course.
- The Defroster: Michael strongly implies that defrosting Quinlan is precisely why he's currently on Earth.
- In Mysterious Ways: Michael's end goals is increasingly clear as the movie goes on, but he rarely pursues them in the most obvious way. For instance, we find out early on that Dorothy is a amateur songwriter wants to be a musician, and Michael suspiciously demands that she sing on command for him exactly once in exchange for him going. The expectation is that he is going to make her sing at the right time and be recognized for her talent, and indeed the group ends up at a packed bar with an open mic competition halfway through. But instead of making her sing on stage as expected, he instead makes her sing for her friends - and their positive response give her the confidence to sing on stage without being made to.
- Eventually Frank scoffs at this notion later on, at the idea that Michael will someone create a convoluted Meet Cute for him and Dorothy to reunite. The situation he jokingly describes looks like it's about to happen later, but then turns out to be dud... only for Michael to show up and just lead the two to each other directly.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Michael himself.
- Love Angel: While Michael is an archangel (and speaks about kicking Satan out of heaven at one point), he plays matchmaker for Frank and Dorothy.
- Our Angels Are Different: Michael, being an archangel, is far more rough around the edges than what most people come to expect. The only thing really angel-like about him is that he has wings. He says so himself: "I'm not that kind of angel."
- Punch! Punch! Punch! Uh Oh...: Punching an archangel in the face doesn't tend to work that well.
- Satan: Michael is supposed to have kicked his ass, but that was a long time ago.
Michael: Then what happened was, he came as a hundred mouths, open and stinking with decay... and he tore at my flesh from every angle of Heaven. I grabbed Beelzebub's blue tongue in my fist...Grandpa: Woah man, who is Beelzebub ?Michael: Beelzebub is Satan.Grandpa [impressed] : Oh. Satan.
- Louis Cypher averted :
- Shipper on Deck: Michael when it comes to Frank and Dorothy.