ABC got stung when it bought the rights to a true, curious, if trivial, news story about a Texas woman wanting to kill her daughter's cheerleading competish. (Next March, HBO airs its version, starring Holly Hunter, which is reportedly a lot more irreverent with the material.) In "Willing to Kill," Lesley Ann Warren gets a shot at playing the flashy character role, but the vidpic, directed with such flair by David Greene, is a tiresome tease. Maybe it'll go over big in Channelview, Texas, where the non-event took place.

ABC got stung when it bought the rights to a true, curious, if trivial, news story about a Texas woman wanting to kill her daughter’s cheerleading competish. (Next March, HBO airs its version, starring Holly Hunter, which is reportedly a lot more irreverent with the material.) In “Willing to Kill,” Lesley Ann Warren gets a shot at playing the flashy character role, but the vidpic, directed with such flair by David Greene, is a tiresome tease. Maybe it’ll go over big in Channelview, Texas, where the non-event took place.

Writer Alan Hines tries cooking up good characters to enliven the story and Warren’s Wanda Harper at first has a good, hard-faced edge to her, but the creature’s not interesting enough to hold attention.

Wanda’s young daughter gets into gymnastics and baton twirling largely because neighbor Verna (Tess Harper) makes the suggestion; daughter, like her mother, is a competitor, something that never occurred to plain Wanda.

Once Wanda latches on to the idea, though, there’s no stopping her and she tries to disqualify Verna’s daughter along the way.

Wanda, who’s slightly wacko, as her ex-brother-in-law Terry (William Forsythe) observes, becomes determined that her girl beat out Verna’s girl in the contest, while Verna, like viewers, doesn’t much care after a while.

Frustrated, Verna approaches loony ex-con Terry and tries to hire an assassin to put away Verna and her child; everyone involved seems to go tilt.

Warren acts up a storm as the misguided woman, while Harper keeps Verna calm and rational. Forsythe’s insinuating Terry has some substance, which is saying a lot in this exercise.

The production, supposedly taking place in Texas, was made at Southern California locales that are acceptable. Production credits are OK except for a mike dipping into the trial scene.

Vidpic’s purpose apparently is to show how far a mother will go to protect her own ambitions, but so little’s known or told about Wanda –Where and what she is from? What happened to her marriage? What’s the source of her obsessive behavior?–that the audience is left judging a vigorous intangible.

A crawl sums up what’s been happening to the folks and how they’re behaving. Whole thing’s a headscratcher.

Abc Sunday Night Movie Willing to Kill: The Texas Cheerleader Story

(Sun. (8 ), 9-11 p.m., ABC-TV)

Production

Filmed on location around So. Calif. by Stockton Briggle Prods. in association with David Eagle Prods. and Papazian-Hirsch Entertainment. Exec producers, Stockton Briggle, David J. Eagle, Robert A. Papazian, James G. Hirsch; producer, Alan Stepp; director, David Greene; writer, Alan Hines.

Crew

Camera , Stevan Larner; editor, Daniel Cahn; art director, Richard W. Wright; sound, Vincent Garcia; music, Peter Manning Robinson; production designer, Lisa Smithline.

Cast

Cast: Lesley Ann Warren, Tess Harper, Dennis Christopher, Olivia Burnette, Lauren Woodland, Joanna Miles, Casey Sander, Arlen Dean Snyder, Dale Swann, Ann Walker, Lee Chamberlin, Alan Stepp, Will MacMillan, Jim Calvert, Wayne Duvall, Kevin E. West, William Forsythe, Lorna Scott, Lisa Laeman, David Paul Needles, Cindy Hogan, Sarah Platt, Heather Lauren Olson, Michael Melby, Kendra Booth, Mark Raymond McDermott, Elaine Porter, Chuck Bulot, Sally Hightower.
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