The "true story" of Bonnie Parker, Clyde Barrow and their exploits, as reported in director Gary Hoffman's version, plays down the heehaws that galvanized the l967 feature and leans to a more youthful, indulgent audience. With Tracey Needham etching a touching study of Bonnie, Dana Ashbrook notable as an exuberant Clyde, vidpic concentrates on the pair's supposed innocence and sensitivity; program is surprisingly effective.

The “true story” of Bonnie Parker, Clyde Barrow and their exploits, as reported in director Gary Hoffman’s version, plays down the heehaws that galvanized the l967 feature and leans to a more youthful, indulgent audience. With Tracey Needham etching a touching study of Bonnie, Dana Ashbrook notable as an exuberant Clyde, vidpic concentrates on the pair’s supposed innocence and sensitivity; program is surprisingly effective.

Writer Hoffman, who’s directed with finesse, suggests a sweetness in the slaughtering couple who held up banks and killed innocent people in the early ‘ 30s.

Bonnie’s a smalltown Texas teenager itching for more when she meets car thief Clyde, 20, who knows a steal when he sees one. They’re off and, before she can protest much, firing.

Anyone planning to scoff at the TV-sized “Bonnie and Clyde” may end up laughing out of the other side of the face, since Hoffman has created a crisp, engrossing telefilm that may not jibe with history’s assessment but creates an aura of sentimentality that vidwatchers will find deceptively attractive.

Hoffman creates impressive large-sized scenes, as in a siege in Platte City, Mo., or as in an ambush in Dexter, Iowa, that are strikingly clear.

An anachronism pops up here and there (“I’m out of here,””jerko”), and the men’s hairstyles are l990s. The variety of vintage cars, no matter what they’ve been through, are spotlessly clean; rear projection during driving scenes is blatantly obvious.

Acting throughout is good, with Billy Morrissette offering a convincing, even touching, characterization as oddball W.D., who accompanies the pair on their murderous rounds.

Michelle Joyner turns in an effective Blanche (Clyde’s sister-in-law, developed as a less flamboyant creature than Estelle Parsons’ inestimable ’67 interp).

Scenario interpolates Bonnie’s anxious mom (Betty Buckley) and Clyde’s stoic mother (Louanne Stephens) into the action; their reactions to their notorious offspring are unsurprising. Hoffman’s well-constructed drama plays up a tenderness between his principals, who romp through their 3-year spree with contented fatalism to the point of arranging for a joint burial that would never take place.

Vidpic’s chief fault is in turning the sleazy Bonnie and Clyde into a a pair of sympathetic characters. Clyde and W.D. shoot down two cops who approach their car, but it’s quick and distant.

Bonnie and Clyde caused great anguish charging about the countryside dispensing death and despair; their viciousness surfaces in the vidpic in several forms, but it’s W.D. who shoots folks in at least two instances, and it’s Clyde who expresses horror.

Camerawork by Ronn Schmidt is generally efficient, and Kevin Krasny’s editing ably paces the production. Jack Marty’s Depression production designs are repeatedly inventive, with music by Scott Page-Pagter and John Valentino in harmony with the telepic’s themes.

Fox Night at the Movies Bonnie and Clyde: The True Story

(Mon. (17), 8-10 p.m., Fox)

Production

Filmed in East Texas by Hoffman-Israel Prods. in association with FNM Films. Exec producers, Gary Hoffman, Neil Israel; producer, Ooty Moorehead; director-writer, Hoffman.

Crew

Camera, Ronn Schmidt; editor, Kevin Krasny; sound, Stacy Brownrigg; music, Scott Page-Pagter, John Valentino; production designer, Jack Marty.

Cast

Cast: Tracey Needham, Dana Ashbrook, Doug Savant, Billy Morrissette, Michael Bowen, Michelle Joyner, Louanne Stephens, Betty Buckley, Norman Bennett, Bill Bolender, Joy Berryman, Jerry Haynes, James Hynum, Mark Walters, Annie Biggs, Libby Villari, Angie Bolling, Jennifer Thomas, Chamblee Ferguson, Gary Moody, Rick Dowlearn, Michael Hannon, Victoria Wright, Kurt Rhoads, Lucky Mosley, Aaron Chadwick, Hugh Feagin, Jay Dowd, Larry Lynch, Charlie Beecham.
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