Picks and Pans Review: The Christmas Secret

UPDATED 12/18/2000 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 12/18/2000 at 01:00 AM EST

CBS (Sun., Dec. 17, 9 p.m. ET)

Show of the week

"And every mother's child is gonna spy/ To see if reindeer really know how to fly." So goes "The Christmas Song." But in this TV movie, we have a grownup attempting to prove that Prancer's sleigh-pulling is aerodynamically plausible. Though The Christmas Secret tends to belabor the theme that blind faith is a singular virtue, it has enough humor and goodwill to gain approval in the generous spirit of the season.

Jerry (Richard Thomas) is a zoology professor completing a scholarly paper on flying squirrels. The prof gets seriously distracted when a student presents him with a journal by a 19th-century scientist who disappeared after purportedly tracking airborne reindeer to a spot near the North Pole. Mindful of a boyhood encounter with such a creature, Jerry heads to the Arctic to see for himself, goes down in a plane crash and winds up a reluctant guest at Santa's village, where the movie has its most amusing moments. It turns out that the boss (Beau Bridges) prefers the familiar "Nick" to the formal "Santa Claus," displays presidential portraits as evidence of his political clout and resists the advice of his business-savvy children to manufacture violent video games.

The heart-tugging is a bit much as Jerry's wife (Maria Pitillo) and daughter (Taylor-Anne Reid) bravely refuse to give him up for dead, but nothing in The Christmas Secret will reduce your holiday cheer.

Bottom Line: Fairly merry

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