This week’s movie, City of Angels is an American remake of Wings of Desire, a German movie by director Wim Wenders. Wings of Desire is great. City of Angels is not. It’s weird how you can take a subtle, black and white art film from Europe that unobtrusively examines the meaning of life and the value of love, put Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan in it, make it a cheesy “chick flick”, give it a Goo Goo Dolls soundtrack, and for some reason it doesn’t hold up. All the pieces were there, you know? Weird. A rare miss, Hollywood Remakes Department.

Admittedly, though, it has been a really long time since I actually saw Wings of Desire, and I am almost positive that some of the things that are hilarious in City of Angels come directly from the original. But for the sake of this argument, I am treating City of Angels as if it is an entirely original production, so keep your comparative cinema notes for your graduate seminar on the semiotics of post-Weimar neorealism, or whatever.

Besides, it really doesn’t matter. This movie sucks so badly, there is not much Wings of Desire could do to defend it.

City of Angels is about an angel named Seth (Nicolas Cage) who works in Los Angeles (OH WEIRD, I JUST NOTICED, HAHA, WOW!). Here he is just doing some angel stuff:

Angel Power!

He very quickly falls in love with Meg Ryan, who is a surgeon. You can tell that Meg Ryan is a surgeon because she says a lot of hospital words in the very early scenes of the movie. It’s kind of like how in the movie Chain Reaction you could tell that Keanu Reeves was an incredible genius scientist because he wore a Harvard sweatshirt. Of course, angels can’t feel “love,” or any other human emotion. But now they can. It’s very convenient for the story! Anyway, Nicolas Cage starts angel-stalking Meg Ryan like a serious Angel Pervert who needs to go to Angel Jail. One day at the hospital, Meg Ryan can just see him for some reason, even though humans can’t see angels. Again, this works out very well for the narrative arc of this movie! It really helps to move things along!

For some reason (more on this later), Meg Ryan is deeply attracted to this uncomfortably awkward man-child who can only speak in a rape-whisper. Like, right after the above scene, she goes to her locker in the locker room (you know, hospital stuff), and she realizes that her nametag only has her first initial on it. Instead of thinking: ‘Hey, it is very very creepy that that man-boy with the nightmare whisper knew my name when I definitely did not tell it to him, and the hospital security is dangerously lax if strange men in dirty trenchcoats are allowed to lurk in the unnecessarily dark hallways at all hours of the night,” she just smiles and dreams about getting his phone number. LADIEESSSSS! So now they are basically angelfriend and girlfriend. But Meg Ryan realizes that she wants a man who is, well, a man, and not a celestial being who can feel no joy or pain or knife wounds (she attacks him with a knife to see if he will bleed, which is what I call MARRIAGE MATERIAL!).

Then Sipowicz, who used to be an angel, but now is just an incredibly ugly fat man with a heart condition, tells him that it is possible to stop being an angel and start being a man. All you have to do is wish for it real hard. It’s basically like The Secret, but for angels, I guess. When Nicolas Cage finds out that Meg Ryan is going to get married to another man–because angels can get jealous? And care about marriages?–he decides to take the plunge, which is literally a plunge. Off a tall building. Oh jeez.

So now he is a human being. Great. Apparently, when you stop being an angel and become a man, it turns you into a really unbearable spaz who thinks he is Elvis Presley. Also, you apparently are the dummmmmmmmbest. Nicolas Cage is used to traveling “at the speed of thought” so he can’t find Meg Ryan’s hospital. He runs all over LA trying to find it. Even though he has been around for all of human existence? He never bothered picking up a couple Pro Tips? Like how to use a phone book? When he does find the hospital, a woman tells him that Meg Ryan is up at her cabin on Lake Tahoe, and without any further questions he runs out to find her. Because somehow, although he couldn’t get to the hospital two blocks away, he is able to get to Lake Tahoe by that evening, even though he has no money and has just been robbed of his shoes (humans are so mean right away!). He does make it, though. Phew.

And then they fuck. And it is SO GROSS. Like, the grossest.


Anyway, the next morning, Meg Ryan dies. HAHAHAHAHA. In your face, you stupid angel. (Incidentally, Meg Ryan dies by riding her bicycle into a truck of logs. Faces of LOL.)

So now Nicolas Cage is just a stupid mortal man with nobody to stare disgustingly at. He is so sad. But when one of his angel friends asks if he would have left behind the Angel Life if he had known that Meg Ryan would be taken from him so quickly, he said that he would have given up the Angel Life for even just one kiss from her lips. Uh, good? Because that is all you got? They had four hours together.

City of Angels? More like City of Woofgels!

Much like last week’s The Notebook, one of the most unbearable things about City of Angels is the fact that for a story about two “people” falling in love, there is nothing to love about either of them. Meg Ryan is a semi-hysterical idiot, who doesn’t even know to wear a helmet and keep her eyes on the road when she rides her bike.

Incidentally, no one has ever ridden their bike like that. Ever. And the worst part is THAT’S NOT EVEN WHEN SHE DIES! She dies later (when she rides her bike into a truck carrying logs) with her hands on the handlebars and her eyes open, but she is distracted by, like, the beauty of the sun or some BULLSHIT.

And if Nicolas Cage wasn’t an angel for the first three-quarters of the movie, he would be in jail, because dude is basically a stalker who would be a rapist if only he could physically interact with the human world. Look at this guy:


Horror creep.


Gross. But, so, their love is based on…Meg Ryan’s weird narcissistic appreciation for an invisible peeping ghost, and Nicolas Cage loves her because…one time she ate a pear? They go on a date, you see, and Nicolas Cage asks her to describe the pear she is eating, and now the movie is basically City of Pears.

That pear looks delicious. But this pear looks MEANINGFUL:

After Meg Ryan dies (from riding her bicycle into a truck carrying logs), Nicolas Cage knows that there is only one way to truly honor the three-dimensional, interesting woman that she was–a woman so incredible that she was worth completely giving up existence as he understood it and trading immortality for a life of pain and suffering–and that is to buy a basket full of pears in a really normal way just like everyone buys pears.

Boy, he became a regular human so quickly! Just doing things exactly like how we do them!

Of course, they never bother to explain any of the logic of the movie. Like how come Meg Ryan can see him when other human beings can’t, or even more importantly, how come Meg Ryan can only see him SOMETIMES? And why would an angel ever need to swim? And if an angel DID need to swim, would it really be this hard for him?

It can get kind of sticky when you try debunking a movie’s Angel Logic, because there are no such things as angels, and so the field is pretty much open. Anyone who argues really strongly for a different set of Angel Logic is probably sick and needs to go to a hospital. (Where maybe they will be lucky and FALL IN LOVE WITH A REAL ANGEL MAN!)

I do think it would be hard for an angel who has just become a man and has no record of his existence to suddenly get ownership of his dead girlfriend’s house when she died after just one night together with absolutely no chance of changing her will or anything. But apparently it is easy. And anyway, I’m no Angel Lawyer. It’s entirely possible that California has more generous Angel-Man House Inheritance Laws.

And of course, some things about the movie make perfect sense. Like, duh, everybody knows that angels LOVE hanging out on helipads.

And no doy der duh if you try to take a Polaroid picture of an angel you are going to get some Photoshop Lensflare Filter all up in your FACE.

Classic angel prank. So classic.

I did decide while watching this movie that I’m going to sing “Iris” the next time I go out to karaoke.

Because I want all my friends to HATE ME.

Next week: Domino. As always, please leave your suggestions in the comments or in an email. And if you haven’t done so already, please consult the Official Rules.

Comments (114)
  1. Nic Cage is such a mouth-breather. It looks like she’s having sex with Napoleon Dynamite.

  2. “Faces of LOL.” I’m dead.

  3. “I don’t understand, why don’t people want Oldboy re-imagined as a chick-flick starring Sandra Bullock with Owl City on the soundtrack? Aren’t these things popular?”
    ~ The Hollywood Remakes Department, on the Internet reaction to their latest idea

  4. For shame, Gabe. I learned many important lessons about love from this move*. In fact, this movie is what has given me the courage to open my heart to the guy on the bus who smells like moonshine and always tries to cop a feel. It’s not creepy, it’s love. Why does everyone hate love?

    *Love is synonymous with stockholm syndrome, right? Right?

  5. for a story about two “people” falling in love, there is nothing to love about either of them.
    and it is, for this very reason, that i nominate serendipity.

  6. I feel like the one Nicolas Cage movie-per-round rule is slowing down the hunt for the wmoat. So many terrible movies, so little time….

  7. “We fit together. We fit together because of how your penis is elongated and fits into the canal-like structure that is my female vagina. ROMANCE.”

  8. Meet Joe Black did it better.

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic

  9. nominating Nothing But Trouble again. SERIOUSLY.

  10. Did you guys see all of the Angel merch when this movie came out? There were Nic Cage panties, dildos, tattoos, perfume, XXXXXXXL t-shirts and everything.

    #teamseth #MLICOA

  11. I really, really liked this movie when I was a thirteen year old girl. My father spent the whole movie explaining why it was not good, but I didn’t believe him.

    • Was it weird watching the sex bit with your dad?

      (When I watched The Thomas Crown Affair with my dad, I felt obligated to leave the room for about 30 seconds while Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo got it on, and I was in college. But maybe that’s just my family.)

      • I’m twenty six and I still can’t watch anything even a little racy with my mom. I’ve never lived with my dad, so he’s always been more of a friend-type-person. Very shortly after this he decided I needed exposure to good films and showed me Blade Runner. I didn’t like it as much.

        • I see!

          My family is trying to get me to watch The Hangover. The last movie they tried to convince me to watch was Norbit, so I’m skeptical.

    • I want to be friends with your father. He really tried.

      • He really did, and I just did not care. He also crusaded against my musical preferences, which I don’t feel like sharing with you.

        For the record, my twenty six year old self has nothing in common with my thirteen year old self. Well, we both love Nickelodeon.

  12. also, brilliant dissection of a horrible movie! but let’s all agree that song is worse when comparing the two.

  13. He must have been pissed when he tried his first pear and realized they are not very good.

  14. Any scene that involves someone getting all sexy with Nicolas Cage is bound to be gross.

    • I was thinking, It’s probably not that gross, but then I watched it and it really was the grossest thing I saw today, and definitely in the top three of the year so far.

      • Yep. I’ve known for quite sometime that Videogum is out to completely destroy any sexual desire I have. It is slowly, but notch by notch, sort of working. GROSS. I NEVER WANT TO MAKE OUT AGAIN, city of angels. THANKS.

      • I thought the same thing… I was SO wrong. I’d like to Eternal Sunshine myself now. Thanks videogum.

  15. On the subject of terrible actors playing terrible angels, I don’t think anybody’s nominated Michael, starring John Travolta as hard smokin’ hard drinkin’ Archangel Michael. There’s road trips! Also terrible dance sequences.

  16. Seeing Toni Collette at the Golden Globes last night reminded me how terrible “Japanese Story” was. I would like to nominate said piece of trash.

  17. So is Seth Cohen running into a tree during In the Land of Women an homage to Meg Ryan’s demise in this film?

  18. I think this was the first movie I ever got in serious girl trouble for laughing at in the theater. The worst thing about it (aside from what really bothered me then and is mentioned here: the fact that he inherited her house) was that, at least in the theater, when the screen went black it said that the movie was dedicated to Dawn Steele, a producer who’d worked on the movie but died of cancer right before it came out. It was like her entire life was dedicated to the worst movie ever made. It was extra-sad.

  19. I remember seeing this movie in theaters. I’d had such high hopes for it! I was 12 years old and had played the Goo Goo Dolls song on repeat for weeks, but even at that age I knew City of Angels was the worst movie of all time. At the end of it, I thought, “What? That’s all? He turns into a human and she dies two minutes later? That’s bullshit!” I still pray that I never find love like theirs.

    • I remember absolutely HATING this movie when I saw it in theaters, but it was one of those teenage girl social things like Titanic where I had to keep going back; it’s the endless punishment of teenage social hierarchy. I also recall one of my best friends taking the liner notes from the soundtrack CD and pasting pictures of Nic Cage all over her binders. We weren’t friends for long.

  20. Just when you thought the song was over at 2:59, bam, fourth chorus.

  21. You’re my own personal brand of cherubim.

    Ugh. This is like Twilight for Christian adults.

  22. Truck Driver: Oh dag, I think I just hit a bicyclist with my log truck.
    Truck Passenger: Hit her again.
    Truck Driver: What for?
    Truck Passenger: Her soul’s still dancing!

  23. “SOMEONE CALL 9-11″

    I like to imagine Rudy Giuliani wrote that caption. I bet he loves this movie.

  24. I assume that once he became human Nicolas Cage learned very quickly that he can’t continue walking around giving everyone the rapist face.

  25. My older sister used to be OBSESSED with Nicolas Cage. Like, so obsessed that she would make my brother and I watch Face/Off with her while she replayed the part where his trench coat billows out behind him over and over again. Do you know how many times I sat through City of Angels and Con Air? I’m honestly surprised that my brain still functions.

  26. I’d like it recognized that movies that contain a song specially written for the movie in which the plot of the movie is obliquely summarized within the lyrics of the song are pretty much always contenders for the Worst Movie Ever.

    As a long-time listener first-time caller, I shan’t belabor the point of just how eligible this makes Face/Off.

  27. The .gif of Nic Cage angel-ing a random air traffic controller is definitely going in my LOLk portfolio.
    “I am exactly 2 inches away from your face. Now let me put my hands on your shoulders and close my eyes. Mmmm angel rape.”

  28. “I was holding his heart in my hand when he died.” You can tell Meg Ryan isn’t a very good doctor. I mean, don’t they teach you on the first day of Med School that you should never remove the heart from someone’s body? Like, I know they have heart transplant surgeries, but the way she said it made it seem like she was juggling the guy’s heart in her hand like it was a koosh ball

  29. Dear Videogum Staff: As of February 2, 2010, the 2009 film Amelia starring Hilary Swank and Richard Gere will be available on DVD and Blu-ray on Netflix. As such, it is now officially eligible for The Worst Movie of All Time. This week will begin my campaign to included this film for viewing in TWMOAT. This is a truly awful film.

    I must warn you that I shall not relent in my nomination of this film until that day its inclusion is secure. I shall not rest. I shall not falter. I shall not desist. You should, you must, you SHALL review this film.
    That is all. I shall be here next week with a similar message. Good day and thank you for your time.
    PS: As added incentive I shall include a humorous gif of a soulless ginger.

  30. I don’t know how we came to ever see this movie. Maybe it was that our multiplex didn’t have a lot of options, but I do know that after it ended hilariously we all swore to never watch any movie starring Nicholas Cage’s rape whisper for a very long time. For me, the ban held until at least Adaptation, I think.

  31. Factory Girl, please.

  32. Is reading this article going to spoil Wings of Desire for me if I haven’t seen Wings of Desire? Because I don’t care if it spoils City of Angels, but the other one I do mind.

    • No, it will not spoil it for you. Think of it like Pamela Anderson’s “Barbed Wire” being able to ruin “Casablanca” for you – it won’t happen.

  33. today i watched “the hours” with my mother, because i remembered that i liked it when i saw it in 2004. but i didn’t remember anything about it. turns out it is a frigging tense movie about people who are very upset all the time because no one understands them and they are all varying degrees of lesbians (who make out with their sisters?). i dont know. maybe i just dont have feelings, but i nominate the hours.

  34. We’re gonna need a bigger pear basket

  35. OK, I know Lindsay saw it and sort of reviewed it when it came out, but there was wine involved, and my sister forced me to watch it over Christmas without wine. And then she abandoned me, yelling–actually YELLING–”This is NOT how human beings act!” So, because I watched a movie in which a guy told the girl I was supposed to identify with that he liked her because she was “pathetic” like a “BASSET HOUND,” I nominate He’s Just Not That Into You.

    • Oh wow, if I could, I’d upvote this until my fingers went hoarse (what?). I hate that movie so much. Not kidding, it made me cry a little bit. Tears of feminism lost.

  36. All I could think about while watching this movie is that Meg Ryan looks like a well-groomed poodle.

    And I nominate Catch and Release. It’s truly vomitous,

  37. City of Angels was the first movie that I saw that I truly hated and therefore it holds a special (horrible) place in my heart. It killed the childlike wonder with which I had previously approached movies and replaced it with suspicion and cynicism. Maybe this is an exaggeration, but that is how I remember it. I had nightmares about being stalked by Nicolas Cage while Iris by the Goo Goo Dolls (worst song of all time?) played from a radio that I couldn’t turn off for WEEKS. Truly terrifying!

  38. for the love of god could we PLEASE do a videogum karaoke party and could you PLEASE sing some goo goo dolls?

  39. When she hits those logs she is Gone in 60 seconds. I guess riding with no hands is Bangkok Dangerous. I guess Next he will be Bringing Out the Dead meg ryan……..ugh this premise is exhausting

  40. i think that sex scene could actually make abstinence-only sex ed effective. i don’t want to have sex for weeks. thanks, gabe!

  41. is it weird to hate nicolas cage, probably hate this movie (not going to watch it again and find out), but like the goo goo dolls song and video?

  42. I kind of love “Iris.” I wish I were in seventh grade when it came out. Listening to it on repeat at home, I would have plotted out a scene at a dance where I would ask the girl to dance just as its opening strums filled the cafeteria. She would have said yes, and then there would have been a nice montage of us holding hands later, in summertime. Finally, during the song’s spazzy section, I’d get distracted and have to start the fantasy over on the next go-around. What to do with this awkward musical climax, I’d wonder?

  43. I was a little nervous when I started reading this review, because of Gabe’s warning that he is “almost positive that some of the things that are hilarious in City of Angels come directly from the original.” Because Wings of Desire is really not a perfect film. It is precious and pretentious and silly in a lot of ways. But I love it, and I was so scared that I would find myself embarrassed to have its flaws pointed out in a TWMOAT.

    But you know what? Almost EVERYTHING that we are laughing at here comes directly from the giant genius brains of the Hollywood dillholes responsible for the remake. Wings of Desire has no pears, no helipads, no freaking bicycle, and definitely no freaking bicycle accident. Wim Wenders wins this round.

    Although I hear that Wenders’ film Million Dollar Hotel, WRITTEN BY BONO, is the worst fucking movie of all time.

    • Yes, my best friend lives in Berlin and the last time I was over there visiting her I dragged her to go see WOD. She was hesitant to see it again and her Berliner fiancee was like–no way, that movie sucks, but i was like whatever, we liked it in high school, come on. well, we went, and yeah. it is really pretentious and apparently if you speak german it is even worse. but it is beautiful to look at and if you just listen the words without hearing what they actually are it sounds very pretty, too. None of that beauty exists in the remake, just the basic premise with the soul sucked out of it.

      AND you have also heard correctly, Million Dollar Hotel is possibly TWMOAT–has that one been nominated yet?

  44. You could basically do a minute-by-minute commentary of this entire film when describing it’s hilarious fuck-ups. They ruined practically everything about “Wings Of Desire”. From Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds cranking out “The Carney” to Goo Goo Dolls and “Iris”: that metric conversion was done on every element of the film. I used to think Meg Ryan was really cute, and I have loved me some Nic Cage (“Valley Girl”), but I felt as if my guardian angel was off raping someone instead of warning me not to watch this film.

    I nominate “The Box.”

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  46. the first movie I ever walked out of was that one where Christian Slater has a monkey heart (maybe? I walked out and waited for my friends in the lobby). This is not the worst movie (because the worst movie is either this or the notebook), but I nominate it anyway.

    • I thought he only thought he had a monkey heart. This is the one where he makes a rooftop garden of flowers for Mary Stuart Masterson (?) right? It’s not good. Nomination seconded.

  47. My strongest memory of this movie is that near the end I realized “oh, shit, better squeeze out some girl-tears” because I was 15 and at that time ALL my friends cried at sappy movies and I felt like a heartless robot if I didn’t. So there I was, listening to Alanis’s “Uninvited” play over the credits (get it? because she DID NOT INVITE THE ANGEL-RAPIST INTO HER PEAR-FILLED LIFE), trying to think of really really sad things so that when my cheerleader frenemy Stephanie looked at me afterwards she would see someone who was like, deep, or whatever.

  48. Shit sandwich.

    (That’s my much more succinct review of “City of Angels”)

  49. While watching a Golden Girls marathon a few days ago, a commercial for something called Improv Ice came on. Brian Boitano and Kristi Yamaguchi were the hosts. Evidently, all the skaters were backed by live performances by the Goo Goo Dolls(?!)

    Any one of those skaters matched-up in whatever couple configuration is much less revolting than Nicolas Cage with anyone…

  50. I nominate Uptown Girls. Worst movie I’ve ever gone to see in the theater.

  51. Nicolas Cage movies seem to easy. Maybe a special category for his movies? I am re nominating “Because I Said So.” A truly horrific movie in a good way.

  52. Another nomination: The Perfect Man. Perfectly awful.

  53. I saw an interview with Nicolas Cage where he spoke about his preparations to play an angel. For some reason he came to the conclusion that an angel would not need to blink. Obviously. That is why he has that creepy rape ape look on his face. I’m pretty sure rapists blink.

  54. How perceptive. If I had sex with either Meg Ryan or Nic Cage, I’d describe it as “aching” too.

  55. I would like to nominate Garden State. You can tell Natalie Portman is super unique and wonderful because she wears a helmet and makes funny noises. Please.

  56. I nominate “Management” with Jennifer Aniston and Steve Zahn. It is absolutely abysmal with not a single redeeming characteristic.

  57. Why is Nicholas Cage buying so many pears when we all know that it takes him FOREVER to eat fruit?

    Those pears are going bad for sure.

  58. I nominate Charlie Bartlett. Yes, it’s awful.

  59. I never saw this movie, but I did just have a minor bicycle accident. Can I call it a wash?

  60. “put my bunny back into your box” -nicky cage

  61. “Let’s facelift bar!”

    Facelift bar, you guys!

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