powered by FreeFind

Apple iTunes


Albom on ABC: Have a Little Faith is the network's fourth adaptation

Laurence Fishburne and Martin Landau separately hold the keys to the kingdom in Mitch Albom's Have a Little Faith. ABC photos

Have a Little Faith is the latest bestselling Mitch Albom preachment to become an ABC movie.

Try a little tenderness is the approach taken in this review. After all, it's the start of the holiday season. And this adaptation in the end does no harm, even though Albom's self-aggrandizing sermons are getting increasingly hard to swallow. ABC has scheduled Little Faith on Sunday, Nov. 27th at 8 p.m. (central), when most potential viewers might be ready for a little chicken slop for the soul after eating their way through Thanksgiving leftovers and shopping 'til they drop.

The Detroit sports writer turned saviour of humankind had a blockbuster in Tuesdays with Morrie before following it up with The Five People You Meet In Heaven and For One More Day.

Albom's latest, his first non-fiction book in 12 years, essentially is Morrie revisited. Instead of reconnecting with his spry, wizened old college professor, he reconnects with his spry, wizened old hometown rabbi. Life's lessons are imparted before death intervenes at books' and movies' ends. This isn't spoiling anything, since Rabbi Martin L. Lewis (Martin Landau) has asked an initially resistant Albom (Bradley Whitfield) to deliver his eulogy.

The movie, as was the book, is intertwined with the story of Henry Covington (played as an adult by Laurence Fishburne). He had been a thief, bag man and drug user before seeing the light and eventually finding his way to Detroit as the pastor of a badly dilapidated church in desperate need of a new roof.

Fishburne, in his first prominent TV role since leaving CBS' CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, looks fairly ridiculous in the big Afro wig he wears during those Bad, Bad Leroy Brown years. And Whitford, his hair dyed anchorman burnt orange, seems mostly out to lunch as Albom. There is absolutely no oomph to his performance, whether he's learning at the feet of Lewis, coming to the aid of Covington or dully narrating passages such as, "I was seeing those rarest of things -- a changed man."

That leaves Landau to spark the movie, which he does to a point as a singing rabbi in his 80s with a heart of gold and a gift of gab. But his exchanges with Whitford never quite resonate the way Hank Azaria's did with Jack Lemmon in ABC's Emmy-winning 1999 adaptation of Tuesdays with Morrie.

In fact, the most emotional scene in Little Faith is courtesy of Anthony "Cass" Castelow, who had no acting experience prior to playing himself in this film. In the closing half-hour, Cass invites Albom into his car on a stone cold winter's day. He then tells of how pastor Covington saved him from a similar life of crime and drug abuse. It's a beautifully played scene, on Castelow's part at least.

There's also a twist near the end of Little Faith that serves to link the seemingly disparate narratives of pastor Covington and rabbi Lewis. And to the film's overall credit, it's filmed entirely on location in Detroit, which needs all the economic boosts it can get.

Little Faith also has generic dutiful wife roles for Melinda McGraw and Anika Noni Rose, who respectively play Janine Albom and Annette Covington.

McGraw's Janine, always ready with hugs and reassurances for her noble yet sometimes doubting husband, is stuck with mouthing the movie's title. "Have a little faith in yourself," she tells him after the wanderer returns home from another visit with Rabbi Lewis.

All in all, Little Faith can be preachier than a Republican presidential candidate debate, albeit without any comic relief. Still, its message can't be faulted. And some its scenes work reasonably well, even if more are found wanting.

ABC, CBS and NBC used to turn out made-for-TV movies and miniseries like auto parts on a Detroit assembly line. Now they're an extreme rarity while at the same time being mostly nothing special. Have a Little Faith is better than nondescript and at least is doing God's work in name if not always in execution. The Big Guy in the clouds might want TV critics to be a bit more charitable toward it as Thanksgiving passes the baton to Christmas. So consider it done via a grade of: