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Archive for Monday, May 23, 2011

‘Too Big to Fail’ less than success

May 23, 2011

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Featuring a talented and acclaimed cast that could easily fill half a ballroom at the Emmy Awards, “Too Big To Fail” (8 p.m., HBO) attempts to tackle a story too big and complex to shoehorn into one TV movie.

Directed by Curtis Hanson and based on the bestselling book by Andrew Ross Sorkin, “Too Big to Fail” recalls the economic calamity of September 2008, when a slumping real estate market reduced the banking and insurance industry’s cleverly packaged mortgage securities to all-but-worthless paper.

William Hurt is terrific here as the highly conflicted Treasury Secretary Henry “Hank” Paulson. A former Goldman Sachs executive and enthusiastic capitalist and supporter of deregulation, he would be forced by events to undertake a drastic government intervention in the markets.

James Woods has the only other three-dimensional role in this morality tale, that of Lehman Brothers Chairman and CEO Dick Fuld, a proud man who watches his company all but evaporate before his eyes over the course of scant days and hours.

Paul Giamatti, who excelled as John Adams, is quite remarkable here as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, a man painfully aware that his every utterance can make markets rise or fall. But even he’s in only a few memorable scenes.

The rest of the amazing cast — too many actors to name here — receive fleeting seconds of screen time. Ed Asner rushes by as Warren Buffett. Dan Hedaya, who played Nixon in “Dick” has at most two lines as Rep. Barney Frank. John Heard plays Joe Gregory of Lehman Bros. Tony Shalhoub sheds his “Monk” character to stand in for John Mack of Morgan Stanley, but ultimately, he’s just another suit.

Casting-wise, “Too Big” is much like some bloated Wall Street bonus — an embarrassment of riches. You can’t help but think that these assets could be put to better use.

For all of the talent behind and in front of the camera, it’s hard to tell how much a viewer would take away from this film if he or she weren’t at least casually familiar with the events of 2008. Unlike HBO’s “Recount,” a film that infused a tale of recent history with suspense and some humor, “Too Big” is too much like its subject and characters: complex, solemn and ultimately tragic.

Tonight’s other highlights

• Shohreh Aghdashloo (“24”) guest stars on the season finale of “House” (7 p.m., Fox).

• The competition concludes on “Dancing with the Stars” (7 p.m., ABC).

• A virus outbreak must be stopped on the series finale of “The Event” (8 p.m., NBC).

• Adam Arkin (“Chicago Hope”) guest stars on the series finale of “The Chicago Code” (8 p.m., Fox).

• A woman named Ashley plays house with 25 strangers on a new season of “The Bachelorette” (8 p.m., ABC).

• Heidi Klum and John Lehr host “Clash of the Commercials: USA vs. the World” (9 p.m., CBS).

• Luck runs out for a casino employee on the just-canceled “Law & Order: Los Angeles” (9 p.m., NBC).

• A rapper looks at his back pages on “50 Cent: The Origin of Me” (9 p.m., VH1).

• Parents share horror stories on “World’s Worst Teens” (9 p.m., Discovery Fit & Health).

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