Scripter Cindy Myers, adapting Ken Follett's suspense novel about a collection of twins, has pretty much maimed it with the mundane dialogue, lame transitions and consistently bad or inane males. Tom McLoughlin's directing builds some tension, and the source of the story --- cloning, of course --- guarantees attention. It's pulp that'll sell. Dr. Jeannie Ferami (Kelly McGillis), plugging along at a university on her theory about aggressive-behavior genes and identical twins raised apart, doesn't realize she's intruding on forbidden territory. Her boss, that renowned geneticist Berrington Jones (Larry Hagman), self-styled "spokesman for modern genes," had a hand in creating at least two --- maybe three or more --- male babies years ago by breaking a few eggs.

Scripter Cindy Myers, adapting Ken Follett’s suspense novel about a collection of twins, has pretty much maimed it with the mundane dialogue, lame transitions and consistently bad or inane males. Tom McLoughlin’s directing builds some tension, and the source of the story — cloning, of course — guarantees attention. It’s pulp that’ll sell.

Dr. Jeannie Ferami (Kelly McGillis), plugging along at a university on her theory about aggressive-behavior genes and identical twins raised apart, doesn’t realize she’s intruding on forbidden territory. Her boss, that renowned geneticist Berrington Jones (Larry Hagman), self-styled “spokesman for modern genes,” had a hand in creating at least two — maybe three or more — male babies years ago by breaking a few eggs.

Jones, underhandedly toiling on a dizzying merger deal, wants no one to know it’s he who concocted that secret experiment 27 years ago, since it could throw a monkey wrench into the merger. But Ferami, investigating DNA and other relative factors, bumps into smoldering Steve Logan (Jason Gedrick, who seizes his scenes) and learns there’s murder among his blood relatives.

Myers, injecting tired situations, does create at least two worthy characters interpreted by worthy actors: Marion Ross delivers a sweet job as Lila Ferrami, Jeannie’s failing mom; and Hal Holbrook, Jeannie’s no-good jailbird dad, gives the role a neat and sneaky twist. Myers drops the ball by jettisoning them both from the story. Too bad, since they act like real people.

Jeannie’s in trouble with big cheese Jones and with a Logan lookalike who has raped her aide, Lisa (Lisa Vidal). But Jeannie’s determined, and, when Lisa i.d.’s Steve as her attacker, she begins poking around the gene pool. Seems upright — or is he? — law student Steve has a twin brother, Dennis, of whom he knows nothing, and Dennis, a convicted killer, is locked up in jail. How could he have attacked Lisa?

Then it looks as though there’s still another semi-twin, and the twins begin to stretch out like Banquo’s issue. Most important is that the sly Jones, aware of the situation, tries to shut down earnest Jeannie.

It doesn’t take a DNA expert to figure out what’s going on, and Myers does do a good job of delaying the truth, though the publicity’s already been let out that Logan (Gedrick’s nasty Dennis is, as might be expected, insinuating and insolent) and the others are cloned brothers. The telefilm unfortunately doesn’t plunge into the serious ramifications of the situation, any more than NBC’s September run at the same subject, “Cloned,” did. But the mystery’s there and will be worth pondering when more serious attempts are made.

Jeannie’s constantly present next-door neighbor (Jan Rubes) is a distraction, and a scene in which Jeannie and Lisa walk though a double row of hardened jailed criminals is laughable.

Casting McGillis and Gedrick as an unnecessary romantic pair doesn’t come close to reality, but McGillis proves a convincing heroine, and Gedrick has an admirable fiery aspect. Hagman’s journeyman Jones smirkingly fills the bill, and Ralph Waite passes through as a conniving senator.

“Third Twin’s” entertaining enough as sci-fi, and suggests how many more of these cloning ventures lie ahead. Like Banquo’s issue.

Tech credits are all pro.

Ken Follett's The Third Twin

Sun. (9), Tues. (11), 9-11 p.m., CBS

Production

Filmed in Toronto. Executive producers, Sally Jessy Raphael, Michael Jaffe, Howard Braunstein; co-executive producer, Ellyn Williams; producer, Christine Sacani; co-producer, Alda Neves; director, Tom McLoughlin; writer, Cindy Myers, based on book by Ken Follett.

Cast

Cast: Kelly McGillis, Jason Gedrick, Larry Hagman, Regina Taylor, Lisa Vidal, Marion Ross, Jan Rubes, Kenneth Welsh, Linda Sorensen, Tom Butler, Ralph Waite, Hal Holbrook, Damir Andrei, Christina Collins, John Winston Carroll, Robert Haley, Quyen Hua, Bill MacDonald, Steve Mousseau, Dini Petty, Kathryn Winslow, Briar Boake, Jim Codrington, Philip Craig, Bryan Elliot, Dom Fiore, Jennifer Foster, Naomi Gaskin, Michael Hall, Peter Jervis, Micholas Kilbertus, Lonnie King, Mark Lutz, Tino Monte, Greg Morris, Silvio Oliviero, Sean Oor, Steve Pernie, Cara Pifko, Beatriz Pizano, Susan Rodomar, Franco Rovazzi, Massimo Rovazzi, Maria Sacni, Richard Sali, Pedro Salvin, Hadley Sandiford, Angela Vint, Trida Williams.
Camera, Frank Tidy; editor, Marshall Harvey; production designer; Karen Bromley; art director, Peter Grundy; sound, Tom Mather; music, Don Davis; casting, Molly Lapota.

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