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Picks and Pans Review: Mother Teresa: in the Name of God's Poor

updated 10/06/1997 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/06/1997 01:00AM

Family Channel (Sun., Oct. 5, 7 p.m. ET)

C

How do you dramatize the story of a woman certain to be canonized without depicting her as a plaster saint? Maybe this film, completed before the subject's death last month, couldn't help being stiff and unconvincing despite its sincerity. Maybe Mother Teresa's virtue and holiness are inexpressible in TV-movie terms.

Although the timing of the film is bound to increase its audience, viewers exposed to the recent massive coverage of Mother Teresa's life and funeral will be only too aware that Geraldine Chaplin looks nothing like her. Chaplin makes a scrupulous effort to maintain the proper accent (Albanian plus a hint of Bengali picked up by the missionary nun from her years in the Calcutta slums). But with all respect to the actress and the humanitarian she portrays, we tire of hearing TV's Mother Teresa reiterate her resolve to "verk vit da pooorest of da pooor." Shot amid real poverty in Sri Lanka, the film looks authentic even when it sounds false—except for a late scene between Mother Teresa and a fictional veteran journalist (William Katt), whose old-man beard is more bogus than his dialogue.

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