Picks and Pans Review: Who Killed Atlanta's Children?

updated 07/17/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/17/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Showtime (Sun., July 16, 8 p.m. ET)

This TV movie maintains that at least some of the notorious Atlanta child murders of the late '70s and early '80s were the work of the Ku Klux Klan and not Wayne Williams, whose conviction in two homicides supposedly closed the case. It's a serious and important charge, but sometimes it can hardly be heard over the arguing between James Belushi and Gregory Hines, as fictionalized versions of the Spin magazine journalists who probed the crimes for a 1986 article.

Hines is the editor who believes in following the story where it leads—except when he has cold feet. Belushi is the bulldog reporter who thinks Hines sold out by moving up to management. The only thing worse than their shouting matches is Belushi's heavy sarcasm. "Yeah, pull this leg and it plays 'Jingle Bells,' " he says to an evasive federal agent. Can this newshound crack wise or what?

The film takes pains to give Hines and Belushi an emotional stake in the investigation: One regrets neglecting his own son; the other accidentally killed his younger brother. But the messengers only get in the way of the message.

Bottom Line: Hollywood approach hurts Atlanta case

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