Joyce Heft Brotman's script begins with sight of Annie plunging to her death, then nearly immediately flashes back to story leading to that point an hour later, when mom tries to pressure police into reopening the investigation.

Joyce Heft Brotman’s script begins with sight of Annie plunging to her death, then nearly immediately flashes back to story leading to that point an hour later, when mom tries to pressure police into reopening the investigation.

The first half is pretty dreary stuff, made even less palatable by Annie being an unappealing, petulant juvenile.

There’s little foreshadowing of what’s to come (other than that first scene, of course) until well into the hour, when Helen tells a telephone caller that Annie isn’t home — which she is — as ominous music plays.

Vast bulk of what clearly was suspicious conduct doesn’t materialize until after Annie’s funeral, when it’s discovered that the child has a $ 100,000 insurance policy, with Helen as beneficiary. About that time, Seattle police detective Steve McAdams (Weitz) steps into the clues closet.

Everybody except McKellar underplays under Noel Nosseck’s direction, in this case an unwise move. A little of Ruttan acting as Harriet Nelson would have been enough to set the scene; more of her dark side revealed earlier would have helped drag the audience along. Lipton is simply wasted, though her performance is certainly competent.

Rising above this is Weitz, nicely cleaned up from his “Hill Street Blues” persona and eminently watchable as a character it would be nice to see again in more challenging situations.

Justice for Annie, a Moment of Truth Movie

(Mon. (15), 9-11 p.m., NBC)

Production

Filmed in Toronto by O'Hara-Horowitz Prods. Executive producers, Michael O'Hara , Lawrence Horowitz; producer, Tracey Jeffrey; co-producers, Kathryn McArdle, Lynda Johnson; director, Noel Nosseck; writer, Joyce Heft Brotman; camera, Richard Leiterman; editor, Ron Spang; production designer, Richard Wilcox; sound , Martin Fossum; music, Stanley Widelitz. #Cast: Peggy Lipton, Danica McKellar, Terry David Mulligan, Gwynyth Walsh, Teryl Rothery, Lochlyn Munro, Martin Cummins, Mike Simms, Bruce Weitz, Susan Ruttan, Aloka McLean, Brenda Crichlow, Richard Sali, Garry Chalk, Hagan Beggs, Corrie Clark, Deryl Hayes, Forbes Angus, French Tickner, Jim Smith, Marny Eng. Plucky-mother yarn touted as "inspired by a true story" features a standout performance by Bruce Weitz as a laconic, dogged police detective, but bogs down in unusual structure. Result is a tepid telling of an incident that should have generated more spice. Danica McKellar plays Annie Mills, 19, an Ohio girl who leaves home to marry sailor Ken Carman (Martin Cummins). When marriage heads for disaster, Annie takes a room in the home of Helen and George Preston (Susan Ruttan, Terry David Mulligan), wholesome parents of handsome musician Mickey Holloway (Lochlyn Monroe). When Annie falls to her death on a vacation trip with the Prestons, it's dismissed as an accident -- until Annie's estranged mother, Carol (Peggy Lipton), is convinced that the girl was murdered.
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