"Almost an Angel" is Paul Hogan's apparent attempt to distance himself from " `Crocodile' Dundee" by taking on the character of a low-key Australian in America who doesn't quite fit in with society.

Now there's casting against type.

The twist this time is that Hogan plays a character who becomes an angel . . . or does he?

This Frank Capra-style comedy manages a gentle, occasionally sweet nature, but "Almost An Angel" just isn't funny enough — and at times not even interesting enough — to hold the attention of the audience.

In fact, like its star, this movie is so low-key it often seems half-asleep.

Hogan, who also gets screenwriting and executive producing credit, stars as an electronics genius who uses his talent to commit burglaries. He's in prison when the film starts, demonstrating his abilities to a guard by virtue of an amazing little remote control he's constructed that seems able to turn on or off just about anything he aims it at.

As the film opens, Hogan is about to be released and he expresses his weariness at being the first suspect every time a major crime involving a complicated break-in is committed.

So he decides to go for another line of work.

Donning an elaborate disguise as Willie Nelson, Hogan robs a bank of nearly $70,000. Later, he runs to the aid of a young boy, is hit by a truck and finds himself seriously injured.

While in the hospital, he dreams — or is it a dream? — that he is visited by God (Charlton Heston, in an amusing, unbilled cameo), who tells Hogan that, despite his life of crime, his righteous, self-sacrificing act has made him eligible for a second chance. He is made an angel of mercy — on probation, of course — and returns to earth to help others.

The charge doesn't take at first. As soon as he returns, Hogan attempts to rob another bank (this time disguised as Rod Stewart).

But it's not long before he sees the error of his ways . . . more or less . . . and decides to seek out the needy.

His travels take him to the poor side of town where he meets a bitter, wheelchair-bound young man (Elias Koteas) who lives with his mother (Doreen Lang) and sister (Linda Kozlowski, Hogan's " `Crocodile' Dundee" co-star).

Hogan helps them find their way, and they in turn help him find his. Needless to say, there is also a bit of romance with Kozlowski.

But predictability is the least of the problems with "Almost an Angel." From the beginning, the film is burdened by an overly preachy manner — which really becomes heavy-handed when Hogan meets Koteas — and a hamfisted musical score by Maurice Jarre.

Add to that the number of jokes that stumble and fall — some of which don't seem like jokes at all — and you have a sad misfire.

Hogan is charming and his easygoing manner makes for a pleasant screen persona, but he could have used some help on his script. Likewise, producer-director John Cornell (whose earlier film credits are the two " `Crocodile' Dundee" films, naturally) needed to punch up the attempted laughs.

It's so seldom we get a movie that treats religious themes with some modicum of respect instead of ridicule that it seems a real shame "Almost an Angel" doesn't work.

The film is rated PG for some violence, a few scattered profanities and a couple of vulgarities.