Picks and Pans Review: The Color of Love: Jacey's Story

updated 03/20/2000 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/20/2000 AT 01:00 AM EST

CBS (Sun., March 19, 9 p.m. ET)

All this emotional TV movie needs is Ray Charles singing "Georgia on My Mind." Gena Rowlands plays a widow named Georgia who lives in fictional Sweet Creek, Ga., and is happily active in a women's club called the Georgia Peaches. But her southern comfort doesn't last past the first commercial. Georgia gets word that Lily-Joe, her long-estranged daughter in California, lies seriously hurt after an auto accident. At a San Diego hospital, Georgia learns that Lily-Joe has died; that Lily-Joe's husband, also killed, was a black man from Sweet Creek; and that the couple had a 6-year-old child, Jacey (Penny Bae Bridges), whom Georgia reluctantly brings home on the assumption that no one else can care for her. Enter Lou (Louis Gossett Jr.), Jacey's paternal grandfather, who insists on raising the girl in California, far from the Sweet Creek bigotry he recalls bitterly.

It would be easy—and pretty accurate—to label The Color of Love a racial soap opera. Despite some clunky dialogue, Rowlands and Gossett are dependable pros who know how to make Georgia and Lou sympathetic even in their narrow-minded moments. But the drama is too timid in treating the possibility of romance between the two main characters, and it resorts to a freeze-frame ending that suggests the filmmakers simply weren't sure how to resolve the situation. "Georgia broke my heart once before," Lou says. "I'll never let that happen again." What a state to be stuck in.

Bottom Line: Stars are strong but script's not peachy

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