Archive for Saturday, February 7, 2009

‘Gifted’ story can be heavy-handed

February 7, 2009


Classical music soars as a very important brain surgeon (Cuba Gooding Jr.) rushes to diagnose a hopeless case. Stirring strings and angelic operatic voices commingle in beautiful contrast to the clinical austerity of hospital corridors. But there is no cure. We are watching a TV movie being suffocated under ceaseless waves of nobility, good taste and uplift.

Don’t get me wrong. “Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story” (7 p.m., today, TNT) is a well-meaning movie with interesting characters based on a true story. And it imparts an Important Lesson. That’s what makes it all the more frustrating.

Gooding’s character, Ben Carson, is a world-acclaimed surgeon who was inspired by his mother (Kimberly Elise), a hard-working, illiterate cleaning woman from a battered background who was determined to give her two sons a better life.

Jason Fisher and Gus Hoffman play the grade-school and high-school versions of young Ben, whose mind and imagination soar after his mother insists that he turn off “Father Knows Best” reruns and bury himself in books, science, math, music, fine art (“Show me the Monet!”) and, finally, medicine.

An earnest effort, “Hands” is so self-assured and so intent on sharing its wisdom that it makes Carson’s remarkable story seem devoid of drama, humor and even joy. On the other hand, you have to give credit to a TV movie that teaches that genius can be achieved only after you turn off your television.

• The network miniseries isn’t dead, but it may soon opt for euthanasia. “The Last Templar,” the last NBC mini, was a complete mess that couldn’t decide whether it wanted to embrace “Da Vinci Code” mystical melodrama or spoof it. Over the next two Sunday nights, NBC offers “XIII” (8 p.m., Sunday, NBC), a cloak-and-dagger thriller starring Val Kilmer and Stephen Dorff.

This “24”-ish mystery kicks off with the assassination of a female U.S. president. Months later, a stranger wakes up in the woods with no memory or clues as to his identity or past. All he, or we, have to go on is the Roman numeral XIII (that’s 13, kids) tattooed on his neck.

Is that a link to a vast conspiracy? Should we care? NBC declined to send “XIII” out for review, so I have no way of giving my “ii” cents, except to say that a policy of nonpublicity is never a sign of confidence.

• Jennifer Hudson, Carrie Underwood, U2 and too many musicians to list appear on the 51 Annual Grammy Awards (7 p.m., Sunday, CBS).

Today’s highlights

• Dogs of many breeds are put to the test on “Dog Show” (7 p.m., Animal Planet).

Sunday’s highlights

• Scheduled on “60 Minutes” (6 p.m., CBS): an interview with the crew of US Airways flight 1549; a profile of the band Coldplay.

• “Nature” (7 p.m., PBS, check local listings) explores wildlife trying to eke out existence in the shadow of the 11,000-foot-tall towers of black basalt that form South Africa’s haunting Drakensberg Mountain range. F. Murray Abraham narrates this segment featuring luminous cinematography and African music.

• Roman’s trial puts Nicki on the spot on “Big Love” (8 p.m., HBO).

• Friends and dreams get complicated on “Flight of the Conchords” (9 p.m., HBO).


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