Viewers hungry for sappy drama with no hooks or surprises will find much to like about "Moment of Truth: Cradle of Conspiracy," a two-hour telefilm that meanders in search of a finale. Contrary to its title, program reveals nothing exculpatory and may send viewers to alternate programming by the first break.

Viewers hungry for sappy drama with no hooks or surprises will find much to like about “Moment of Truth: Cradle of Conspiracy,” a two-hour telefilm that meanders in search of a finale. Contrary to its title, program reveals nothing exculpatory and may send viewers to alternate programming by the first break.

When their teen daughter hooks up with a sleazy Romeo, Suzanne Guthrie (Dee Wallace Stone) and hubby Jack (Carmen Argenziano) question his motives.

But, fearful of alienating daughter Kristin (Danica McKellar), the parents go along with the program until tragedy strikes: Kristin takes off with him.

Inquiries by the couple uncover that the boyfriend, Kenny Trask (Kurt Deutsch), is an advance man for an out-of-state bad guy who deals in black-market babies. They also learn their daughter is pregnant.

The search is on, but not before plenty of mother-father introspection and finger-pointing, in an attempt to determine which parent is the most responsible for the slide of their G-rated daughter into the seamy underground.

The emotional battle between the pair takes as much a toll on the viewers as on the couple, as the story sinks deeply into direct-to-video B-movie fodder.

Enter a succession of inept cops, hamstrung district attorneys who have little legal jurisdiction, and an indictment of a system that protects the politically powerful — the baby-ring kingpin apparently has friends in high places — and the story becomes a by-the-numbers drama.

While Deutsch is convincing and compelling as the potentially endearing con man, scriptor Jayne Martin gives him and most of the cast little to work with.

Trite conversations and wishy-washy dialogue comprise the bulk of main characters’ exchanges, causing the pic’s slow start to be doomed by an even slower evolution of both characters’ motives and story’s unfolding.

Although McKellar’s work as the sweet-16 character who prefers to distrust the parents instead of the real foes, and appears incapable of rational thought, is well-conceived and taut, it may ultimately lack the necessary support to keep viewers interested.

Director Gabrielle Beaumont initially prefers to give Stone plenty of backbone, but inexplicably allows the veteran actress to drop the ball in midcourt, opting for a more hysterical take on the problems at hand.

A show-closing kidnap attempt by Trask is too little too late, as the neatly tied bow around the happy ending is pulled very tight just in time for the end credits.

Moment of Truth: Cradle of Conspiracy

(Mon. (2), 9-11 p.m., NBC-TV)

Production

Filmed in Arizona and Louisiana by O'Hara-Horowitz Prods. in association with NBC. Exec producers, Michael O'Hara, Lawrence Horowitz; producers, Coty Moorehead, Marc B. Lorber, Jayne Martin, Joseph S. Plager; writer, Martin; director, Gabrielle Beaumont.

Crew

Camera, Robert E. Collins; production design, Shirley Starks; editor, Mervin B. Dayan; sound, Doug Arnold; music, Mark Snow.

Cast

Cast: Dee Wallace Stone, Danica McKellar, Kurt Deutsch, Carmen Argenziano, Geoffrey Thorne, Merle Kennedy, Ellen Crawford, Shannon Fill, Jamie Lunar, Burke Byrnes, Christine Healy, Matthew Faison, Charlie Holliday, Owen Bush, Jana Arnold, T.C. Warner, Wayne Duvall, E.E. Bell, Janet Gilmore.
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