Purporting to document pop icon Madonna's rise with an intimate look at her early, lean years, this telefilm offers little worth watching, despite some strong acting. From a historical perspective its shortcomings are legion; as a drama, it fares no better.

Purporting to document pop icon Madonna’s rise with an intimate look at her early, lean years, this telefilm offers little worth watching, despite some strong acting. From a historical perspective its shortcomings are legion; as a drama, it fares no better.

Scripter Michael Murray, basing his work on an unauthorized bio by Christopher Andersen, fails to create a compelling drama or likable characters. He weaves a plodding tale steeped in revisionist history and tabloid viewpoints. Those tangentially familiar with”Bionic Ever After” review, page 6

Madonna’s life story will view this spec with a jaundiced eye, while fans will find holes big enough to drive a tour bus through.

After Madonna (Terumi Matthews) spends her first night in the big city on a park bench surrounded by the town’s homeless, hookers and hopefuls, the shine

of showbiz is quickly tarnished for her.

But, determined to succeed, the soon-to-be star suffers through a gaggle of unglamorous jobs, nude modeling sessions and failed romances in pursuit of her goal.

The telepic unimaginatively uses a series of cattle-call auditions to convey to viewers how hard the road ahead will be for Madonna, and how she has defied the odds.

Visually, Matthews is a ringer for Madonna, and her portrayal conveys the pop icon’s take-no-prisoners attitude.

Madonna’s stubbornness and her reluctance to acquiesce to others’ demands are already well documented. Yet Murray hammers these traits home, and in the process unwisely creates an unlikable lead character, unworthy — and undesiring — of viewer support.

The linear story offers no subplots, and characters come and go so quickly that none of them aregiven time to forge an identity.

Even the talented Dean Stockwell, who plays Madonna’s dad, is hamstrung by the material. The actor manages nonetheless to eke out a well-defined reading.

Despite the script’s flaws, actress Matthews succeeds at keeping this Madonna realistic and earns a high-five for her efforts.

Director Bradford May guides Matthews into risk-taking territory and pulls it off. Despite the lackluster material, the majority of the telefilm’s players deliver the goods under his guidance.

May’s cinematography pinpoints the music biz’s seamy underbelly and gets Toronto to take on much of the Big Apple’s grit and grime.

Madonna: Innocence Lost

(Tues. (29), 8-10 p.m., Fox)

Production

Filmed in Toronto by Jaffe/Braunstein Films and Fox Broadcasting Co. Executive producers, Michael Jaffe, Howard Braunstein. Producers, Christine Sacani, Michael J. Murray, Christopher Andersen. Director, Bradford May; writer, Murray; based on a book by Andersen.

Crew

Camera, May; editor, Bernadette Kelly; production designer, Perri Gorrara; art director, Roderik Mayne; sound, Peter Shewchuk.

Cast

Cast: Terumi Matthews, Wendie Malick, Jeff Yagher, Diana Leblanc, Dean Stockwell, Nigel Bennett, Dominique Briand, Don Francks, Tom Melissis, Christian Vidosa, Rod Wilson, Kenner Ames, Dino Bellisario, Leo Burns, Mischke Butler, Kelly Fiddick, Gil Filar, Maia Filar, Diego Fuentes, Matthew Godfrey, Fairy Gutierrez, Robert Hollinger, Ephraim Hylton, Olly Jasen, Glen Kotyk, Bradford May, Carlos Morgan, Evon Murphy, Jenny Parsons, Les Porter, Cyndy Preston, Mario Romano, Christopher Rouse, Stephanie Scalia, Victoria Tengelis, Robert Weiss, Chandra West, Rob Wilson, Jeff Woods, Dave Diamond, John Picard, Neil Chapman, Peter Meuller, Michael Occopinti, Donald Quan, Kerry McShane, Dick Smith, Richard Evans, Kevin MacKenzie, Tim O'Connell, Dennis Pendrith, Patric A. Creelman, Karen Holness, Cara Hunter, Marianne McCord, Brandi Ward, Kerri Wasylik-Clarke, Rennie Wilkinson.

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