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Television Review

Reese Is the Strength in 'Moving of Sophia Myles'

November 25, 2000|STEVEN LINAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In "Touched by an Angel," Della Reese routinely saves troubled souls. Hard as she tries, however, the seasoned star can't provide salvation for "The Moving of Sophia Myles," a soft CBS movie about a troubled parish.

Reese does bring a warmth and vitality to a project that would wither without her, playing the title role as the resolute widow of a popular minister in a small, oh-so-friendly town, where paperboys still deliver the local news on bicycles, gregarious neighbors readily swap stories and church pews are packed every Sunday.

Not surprisingly, the death of Nathaniel (John Beasley) has immediate consequences for Sophia and the community at large. For starters, an opportunistic real estate agent (Rue McClanahan) jumps at the chance to finalize a lucrative land deal that would change the burg's future. Beyond that, McClanahan's aggressive Mary-Margaret angers one and all by unceremoniously booting Sophia from the parish house, making way for a new minister.

Based on a play by John MacNicholas, the predictable script by Quinton Peeples deals with the intertwined themes of forgiveness, personal growth and losing one's faith, thereby making it a natural coupling with the angelic "Touched." Subplots involve a couple (Greg Spottiswood and Kate Greenhouse) at odds over a long-term relationship and Sophia's daughter (Ellen Bethea), a single mother.

Reese provides a sturdy spine in her tailor-made role as the forceful but fallible protagonist, while Beasley makes a solid impression as the taciturn Nathaniel. Director Michael Switzer sets the film's wholesome yet hermetically sealed tone from the first frame, drawing decent performances from a supporting cast that includes a pleasant turn by Earle Hyman as a diplomatic cleric.

In fact, when "Touched by an Angel" eventually retires and CBS starts beating the bushes for a feel-good replacement, the network could easily turn Reese's caring character into the focal point for a new series. Not that we'd want to watch it, but should that occur we'd be more than willing to accept credit for proposing the idea.

*

* "The Moving of Sophia Myles" can be seen Sunday at 9 p.m. on CBS. The network has rated it TV-PG (may be unsuitable for young children).

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