TV REVIEW : Major Cast in Sentimental 'Kid Who Loved Christmas'

Considering that this is the season for warming hearts, general sentimentality and all-around mushiness, "The Kid Who Loved Christmas," a loving little foster-family drama, will not disappoint. It airs at 8 tonight and Sunday at 6 p.m. on KTLA Channel 5.

The movie has some distinctions, among them a winning black cast of Michael Warren and Esther Rolle as the major antagonists, plus Cecily Tyson, the late Sammy Davis Jr., Della Reese and Vanessa Williams. "Kid" is held together by its central kid, Trent Cameron, an Inglewood fourth-grader in his real life. Fresh and bright, he's a major thief whenever the camera looks.

This is a co-production deal between Paramount's TV syndication arm and Eddie Murphy Television Enterprises, with Murphy as executive producer, Arthur Allan Seidelman as director, Sam Egan as writer and jazz musician Stanley Clarke as composer-arranger.

In the tale, Reggie (Cameron) is a traveling orphan who finally lands happily with Tony and Lynette (Warren and Williams). But when Lynette is killed, the woman (Rolle) from the adoption agency wants to take Reggie away. As a jazz saxophone player who has to be mobile for his gigs, Tony is considered unlikely to establish a stable home life for the boy.

Reggie is kicked around to other foster homes and asks Santa to send him his "dad" for Christmas.

There's not exactly a surprise ending here--nor do you need one. While the production has structural holes, there's a niceness to it that effectively wills it to succeed.

The film was shot in Chicago 5 months before Davis' death in May. We tend to forget that he went beyond song and dance. Here he plays Sideman, a legendary piano man. While his last role was a cameo, his few scenes serve his memory warmly.

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