Television Reviews : Gimmicky 'Justin Case' Is 'Disney Sunday Movie'

To direct a TV movie would be regarded as slumming by most feature film directors of the stature of Blake Edwards. On the evidence of Edwards' "Justin Case" (Sunday at 7 p.m., Channels 7, 3, 10 and 42), it appears that Edwards himself is not too excited by the idea.

This is strictly formulaic television. The gimmick is a ghost (George Carlin), a former private eye. He appears before an unemployed actress (Molly Hagan), who has answered his ad for a receptionist, and enlists her in the search for his murderer.

The convoluted story hasn't an ounce of suspense. When the good guy is a ghost who can disappear at will and move objects across rooms, the bad guys don't have a ghost of a chance. It's downright unfair.

Whimsy, not suspense, is supposed to carry "Justin Case"--and that title is a good example of the movie's level of humor.

Carlin, gray and grim, just isn't very funny when he isn't doing his own material. Hagan has a lot of presence and elicits a few grins, if not many laughs. Timothy Stack is wasted as the straight man in a pair of all-too-clumsy cops. Gordon Jump, playing a psychic neighbor, tries too hard.

Edwards wrote the mirthless script with his daughter, Jennifer Edwards. Although it's appearing on "The Disney Sunday Movie," it has "pilot" written all over it. But unlike its subject, it doesn't seem ripe for an afterlife. The thought of watching a whole season of "Justin Case" is truly dispiriting.

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