Picks and Pans Review: Man, Woman & Child

updated 04/25/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/25/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

This follows the trend of such tear-jerking kid movies as Six Weeks, Six Pack and Table for Five, but it may be the worst of a bad lot. (It also comes three months after a CBS-TV movie, Another Woman's Child, with Linda Lavin, that had a near-identical plot.) The fault lies not with the excellent cast headed by Martin Sheen and Blythe Danner but with Erich Segal and David Z. Goodman, who co-adapted the screenplay from Segal's four-hankie 1980 best-seller. The waterworks in Segal's Love Story were nothing compared to what transpires here. Sheen plays an L.A. humanities professor—a happy hubby to Danner and a devoted dad to two young daughters, Arlene McIntyre and Missy Francis. Almost instantly disaster strikes. A call from France reveals that a woman Sheen had bedded a decade earlier has died in a car accident, leaving a son born from the affair whom she never told Sheen about, not wanting to break up his marriage. The boy—Sebastion Dungan, an exceptionally appealing child actor—arrives in L.A. and the ugly secret gets out. Sheen weeps because he doesn't want to send the boy back to France; Danner weeps because she does, and also sneaks in a revenge flirt with a writer (an alarmingly pudgy David Hemmings); the daughters weep because they can't believe old Dad had an affair; and poor Sebastion weeps, presumably because everyone else is doing it. Given this assignment, the best thing director Dick (Farewell, My Lovely) Richards could have done was pass around tissues on the set. There is some comic relief from Maureen Anderman and Craig T. Nelson as family friends, but this soggy plot could sink any actor—at least any except Danner. Here is a passionate, intelligent, criminally misused stage actress giving her best to trash—it's the only true cause for weeping in the film. (PG)

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