Picks and Pans Review: Charles and Diana: Unhappily Ever After

updated 12/14/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/14/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST

ABC (Sun., Dec. 13, 9 P.M. ET)

C

Traditionally, a movie like this about a soured romance would begin with the carefree wooing. But the makers of this glib docudrama shilling Roger Rees and Catherine Oxenberg can't wait to get to the dirt. So, after some stock footage of the 1981 royal wedding, we're right into trouble on the honeymoon night as Diana bridles at the ceremonial demands of her new position.

Attractive stars, intriguing subject mailer and a big budget make the movie flashily inviting. But be prepared for a superficial pell-mell treatment that seems to go by at fast-forward. One of the only scenes that clocks in at over a minute shows Oxenberg twirling around in front of a mirror in an endless succession of glamorous gowns as Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Want to Have fun blares on the sound track. The movie touches all the bases of the couple's celebrated troubles, but so fleetingly that it's often hard to follow.

Rees's courtly charm carries him through the thankless role of Charles, who is portrayed as a stiff, mewling mama's boy. Oxenberg's Diana is a sulking, shallow brat. With the exception of Prince Andrew (Benedict Taylor), no one in the royal family escapes the tar brush. The hardest hit is Prince Philip (David Quilter), who comes across as exceedingly mean-spirited and punitive. Halfway through, with no explanation, both Di and Queen Elizabeth (Amanda Walker) are suddenly transformed into sympathetic characters.

The movie doesn't work as soap opera, because the issues are so petty (Di upsets protocol by fetching her own glass of orange juice) and because everyone is so reserved even when they're feuding. In fact, the movie succeeds only in turning the royal contretemps into a tempest in a gilded teapot.

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