Even with the dual talents of Richard Pryor and Christopher Reeve, Superman III (ABC Sunday at 8 p.m.) has about half the invention, sparkle and originality you could hope for--and about twice as much murkiness as it needs. Pryor is a computer whiz who unwittingly provides a villainous conglomerate king (Robert Vaughn) with the means of defusing our hero. The confrontation between the stars comes too late to matter much; meanwhile, the confrontation between Superman and the dark side of his nature is in itself disappointing.
Robert Redford’s fine film of Judith Guest’s Ordinary People repeats on NBC Sunday at 9 p.m. In this story about the deterioration of an upper-middle-class family in the wake of the death of its eldest son, Redford captures to perfection the WASP mentality that decrees that the surfaces of family life must remain smooth, especially to outsiders, no matter what’s smoldering underneath. Timothy Hutton is the younger son, returning to his suburban Chicago home after a suicide attempt. Donald Sutherland is Hutton’s decent, caring father and Mary Tyler Moore his icy mother, self-centered, rigid and finally pitiable in her inability to deal with love as a gift to be given or received.
Also airing at 9 p.m. Sunday (on CBS) is a repeat of the disappointing 1984 TV movie Passions, in which a widowed Joanne Woodward is determined to get even with Lindsay Wagner, her late husband’s mistress.
Director Jeremy Paul Kagan and writer Edwin Gordon’s film of the 1967 Chaim Potok novel The Chosen (Channel 13 Monday at 8 p.m.) is warm and illuminating, a story of friendship, of love between fathers and sons, and above all, of what it means to be Jewish. Its world is the strict one of Hasidic Jews, and it centers on the inevitable clash between a Hasidic rabbi (Rod Steiger, in his best performance since “The Pawnbroker”) and his son (Robby Benson) as the high school youth who comes in contact with the larger Jewish community in Brooklyn during World War II. Barry Miller is Benson’s new non-Hasidic friend, and Maximilian Schell is Miller’s strongly Zionist father.
Repeating on ABC Monday at 9 p.m. is Something About Amelia, the first TV movie to deal candidly and sensitively with incest. Although too long and too easily resolved, it is generally outstanding, and Roxana Zal is superb as a sad and tragic 13-year-old sexually manipulated by her father, convincingly played by Ted Danson.
Also airing at 9 p.m. Monday, on Channels 28 and 15, is Victor Nunez’s low-budget, dark, angry and lucid film of John D. MacDonald’s A Flash of Green, which is about corruption threatening a small American city. Ed Harris, Blair Brown and Richard Jordan star.
A Little Romance (Channel 13 Tuesday at 8 p.m.) is a delightful adventure involving two genius-level adolescents (Diane Lane, Thelonius Bernard) and a park-bench boulevardier-con man (an irresistible Laurence Olivier).
Airing at 8 p.m. Tuesday on Channel 5 is The Detective, an uneven adaptation of the Roderick Thorpe best seller redeemed by Frank Sinatra in the title role and by Gordon Douglas’ taut, rapidly paced direction.
Robert Duvall gives one of his finest performances in The Great Santini (Channel 13 Wednesday at 8 p.m.), cast as a Marine flyer, trapped between wars and trying to run his family like a prison camp commandant.
Alex: The Life of a Child (ABC Wednesday at 9 p.m.) is a new TV movie starring Craig T. Nelson and Bonnie Bedelia as parents of a child (played by Gennie James) who bravely endures cystic fibrosis.
At the same time--Wednesday at 9 p.m. on CBS--is a repeat of The Seduction of Gina, a routine TV movie about a compulsive gambler (Valerie Bertinelli). Another so-so TV movie in rerun, Invitation to Hell (ABC Thursday at 8 p.m.) is an attempt to give “Faust” a contemporary twist.
For all its effectiveness as a movie, The Boston Strangler (Channel 5 Friday at 8 p.m.), starring Tony Curtis in the chilling title role, nevertheless raises a nagging moral question: Should a film label a man a mass murderer, even though he had yet to stand trial when it was made in 1968? As it turned out, Albert De Salvo never was charged, because of a lack of evidence, and was himself murdered in 1973 by an inmate at Massachusetts’ Walpole State Prison while serving a life sentence for sexual assaults on four women not connected with the Boston stranglings.
Reprising Saturday at 8 p.m. on Channel 9 is Delbert Mann’s 1970 TV movie version of David Copperfield, stronger in its cast--studded with legends of the British theater--than in its script, a rather lifeless adaptation of the Dickens’ classic.
Selected evening cable fare: Starman (Cinemax Sunday at 8); El Norte (Bravo Sunday at 8:30); A Nos Amours (Z Monday at 7); Fitzcarraldo (Lifetime Monday at 8, completed same time Tuesday); Scarlet Street (Nickelodeon Tuesday at 6); Another Country (Z Tuesday at 9); The Wicker Man (Z Tuesday at 10:30); Lonely Hearts (Movie Channel Wednesday at 6); The Man in the White Suit (Bravo Wednesday at 8:30); The Horse’s Mouth (Bravo Wednesday at 10); Treasure Island (Disney Thursday at 7); Murder, My Sweet (SelecTV Thursday at 7); Umberto D. (Bravo Friday at 10); Indiscretion of an American Wife (AE Saturday at 7:30); Nosferatu the Vampyre (Bravo Saturday at 9).