TV REVIEW : ‘The Three Kings’ Arrive on ABC

There’s some scrambled message about faith in tonight’s “ABC Thursday Night Movie,” but after watching “The Three Kings” you may come away with only one new conviction: that this might be one of the worst TV movies ever made.

This incredibly awful two hours--beginning at 9 p.m. on Channels 7, 3, 10 and 42--is centered around an amateur Christmas pageant (at a mental institution, in fact, which is about as amateur as you can get) but soon this Stirling Silliphant-scripted, Aaron Spelling-produced film starts looking like one itself.

Even though the cast includes veteran actor Jack Warden and “La Bamba” star Lou Diamond Phillips, the best acting is by the camels. Mel Damski’s scattershot direction finishes off the corny drama.

Warden, Phillips and Stan Shaw are mental patients hired to play the three wise men in the pageant, and as soon as they mount their camels for a rehearsal they’re out the gates and off to Los Angeles to find the Christ child. Warden, you see, thinks he really is one of the original Magi and Phillips believes the Christ child is returning.


Shaw is just along for the bumpy ride, the ex-medic and skeptic who, when the other two start pointing at the sky and shout, “A sign! A sign!,” has to say “Guys! Guys! That’s the Goodyear blimp!”

Throw in some stereotypical characters--a self-sacrificing therapist, an Oriental TV reporter, an Irish cop, a blowhard car dealer--and every banal turn in the book, and you’ve got a Christmas fruitcake that isn’t worth feeding to Fido.

“The Three Kings” might have been a great “Saturday Night Live” sketch, but as a TV movie it’s a royal pain.