Echoes of vintage Disney. "The Little Kidnappers," a TV movie premiering tonight at 7 on the Disney Channel, is a beautifully photographed, unashamedly sentimental tale of conflict resolved through innocence.
On a Nova Scotia farm, the bitter head of the MacKenzie clan (Charlton Heston, the perpetual stone-faced patriarch), simmers with hate against all Boers, including his decent neighbors, because he lost a son in the Boer War.
His two orphaned grandsons come to live at the farm, but he's too tied up in angry knots to make them feel loved. Turmoil ensues when the lonely little boys find a baby unattended on the beach and secretly decide to keep it, thinking it's an orphan too. They want to give it the warmth they crave for themselves.
The consequences teach everyone a lesson, particularly dour grandfather MacKenzie.
Standing out among the supporting cast is Leah Pinsent as Mackenzie's daughter Kirsten, in love with a Boer doctor (played with sympathy by "St. Elsewhere's" Bruce Greenwood). Pinsent, a natural beauty, graces the screen with intelligence and dignity.
Leo Wheatley, 8, and Charles Miller, 5, who play the grandsons, are true finds. Leo in particular has a turn-of-the-century, unself-conscious appeal rarely found today among child actors.
Based on a short story by Neil Paterson and written by Coralee Elliott Testar, the film is lovingly directed by Donald Shebib. It's a first-class ride through happily-ever-after territory.