Picks and Pans Review: Wide Awake

updated 04/06/1998 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/06/1998 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Joseph Cross, Rosie O'Donnell

As he begins fifth grade, a Catholic schoolboy (Cross) sets himself on a metaphysical quest. He wants to know for sure that 1) God does exist and that 2) his recently deceased grandfather is enjoying an afterlife. No one—not even O'Donnell, typically gruff but well-meaning as a nun who loves baseball, nor Denis Leary, untypically sweet as his dad—can give him the concrete evidence he wants.

This is certainly a worthwhile subject for a family film, but Awake is an unpleasant mix of cute humor, phony piety and mawkish sentiment. Forced to scrunch his face into an expression of pained earnestness, Cross, a pleasant enough 10-year-old, seems to be playing a tiny Jimmy Carter. (PG)

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