Picks and Pans Review: All I Want for Christmas

updated 11/18/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/18/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

Lauren Bacall

If the American Dream decrees that any child can grow up to be President, its corollary—at least as far as Christmas movies are concerned—is that children can get their estranged parents back together. So it is with All I Want for Christmas, a rather pallid piece of whimsy made bearable by the presence of Lauren Bacall as actress Lillian Brooks, "the second lady of the American theater." Brooks is also the grandmother of 7-year-old Hallie (Thora Birch) and 13-year-old Ethan (Ethan Randall), cinematically cute kids who contrive to reunite their still-in-love parents, Catherine (Harley Jane Kozak) and Michael (Jamey Sheridan), in time for Christmas.

For help, Hallie turns to Macy's Santa (Leslie Nielsen in bad makeup and a brief, thankless role). This despite her brother's insistence that Saint Nick "is a jolly fat guy, not a marriage counselor." Unsurprisingly, there's a miracle on 34th Street in time for the final fade-out. Birch has the requisite missing front teeth and acceptably winning ways, but Randall, who must carry a large piece of the action, says his lines as though reciting them off cue cards. Still, there are a few reasons for both parents and children to stay in their seats: All I Want for Christmas portrays an intensely loving, protective brother-sister relationship and gives us Bacall in scotch-and-soda voice singing "Baby, It's Cold Outside." Encore. (G)

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