Picks and Pans Review: Jeremiah

updated 08/28/2000 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/28/2000 01:00AM

PAX TV (Sun., Aug. 27, 9 p.m. ET)

A prophet's task is never easy, but Jeremiah had a particularly tough sale to make. According to the Bible, it was his divine mission to exhort the people of Judah to mend their ways or else face conquest by the Babylonians. When the message of repentance fell on deaf ears and Jerusalem came under siege, God ordered Jeremiah to call for surrender. Not surprisingly, the Hebrew leaders did not hail the prophet as a patriot.

Shot in Morocco two years ago, this TV movie does an acceptable job of tracing Jeremiah's progress from dutiful son to reluctant troublemaker to fiery truth-teller. Although he is a touch shrill in his speeches, Patrick Dempsey is effective in the title role. Klaus Maria Brandauer exudes arrogance in his too-brief turn as Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, and the late Oliver Reed opts for low-key deviousness as Shapan, a power behind the Hebrew throne. The problem is that Dempsey's jeremiads need more context. We're told that Judah is shot through with corruption, but we're not shown enough evidence that the kingdom deserves to be brought low by one so nasty as Nebuchadnezzar.

Bottom Line: Adequate epic

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