The best in forgiving Christian values is at the heart of well-intentioned but weakly conceived "Walking Across Egypt." By far the most distinguishing factor is Ellen Burstyn's independent-minded Southern widower Mattie, a warm, well-rounded perf in which durable thesp plays a bit older than her age. Burstyn lends enormous credibility that keeps the barely pulsating pic alive, but that won't be enough to stop this from going directly to family-oriented cable.

The best in forgiving Christian values is at the heart of well-intentioned but weakly conceived “Walking Across Egypt.” By far the most distinguishing factor is Ellen Burstyn’s independent-minded Southern widower Mattie, a warm, well-rounded perf in which durable thesp plays a bit older than her age. Burstyn lends enormous credibility that keeps the barely pulsating pic alive, but that won’t be enough to stop this from going directly to family-oriented cable.

Mattie lives alone in a comfy old house, but after it’s established that she can’t handle a stray dog, or even her rocking chair, she may be off to the old folks’ home. A letter she eyes in the wallet of dogcatcher Lamar (Mark Hamill) sets off a hardly credible string of events. Lamar’s no-good nephew, Wesley (Jonathan Taylor Thomas), wends his way into Mattie’s confidence, and afterward he escapes from juvenile detention, into her home. Mattie’s liberal Christianity defies the odds, and pic fails to convey the situation’s potential danger, typified by the miscasting of harmless-looking Thomas.

Walking Across Egypt

Production

A Mitchum Entertainment production. (International sales: Keystone Entertainment.) Produced by Madeline Bell, Heath McLaughlin, Bettina Tendler O'Mara, Paul Tamasy. Executive producers, Stan Tendler, Lance Tendler. Directed by Arthur Allan Seidelman. Screenplay, Paul Tamasy, based on the novel by Clyde Edgerton. Camera (Deluxe color), Amelia Vincent; editors, Jonathan Shaw, Bert Glatstein; music, Marco Beltrami; production designer, Sherman Williams; costume designer, Beverly Safier. Reviewed at CAA screening room, Beverly Hills, Feb. 1, 2000. (In Palm Springs Film Festival --- opening night.) Running time: 110 MIN.

With

With: Ellen Burstyn, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Mark Hamill, Judge Reinhold, Gail O'Grady, Gwen Verdon, Edward Herrmann, Harve Presnell, Pat Corley, James Coleman III, Patrick David.
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