So much for pedigree. CBS’ “Missing Pieces” features the Hallmark Hall of Fame stamp and a post-Oscar James Coburn, but the finished product is pretty routine stuff. Weighed down by wooden perfs and a script full of old-hat lines like “He’s my son, dammit!,” this Eye web telepic about family bonds and cowboy machismo brings up serious themes but follows through on none of them.
Based on Ron Hansen’s “Atticus,” “Pieces” sounds really good in a logline: While investigating the death of his estranged son, a father discovers a lot of lies and odd goings-on. But despite the possibilities, vet director Carl Schenkel (“The Mighty Quinn”) and four credited scribes (four!) take little advantage of the dramatic palette, painting the narrative with dull situations and contrived plot points.
Coburn is Atticus Cody, a rough-and-tumble Colorado rancher who has lived alone ever since his wife died in a car accident. He blames the tragedy on his youngest son Scott (Paul Kersey), who was driving that night and who now lives with his guilt in Mexico as a talented artist.
Unable to mend fences with papa, Scott commits suicide after he’s involved in another crash that kills a young Hispanic woman. When dad gets the news, he’s the first one down to claim the body and bring it back home. But while he’s there, he unearths facts that tie slippery swindlers to Scott’s death.
Atticus is helped initially in his quest by Renata (Lisa Zane), Scott’s ex-girlfriend who’s too eager to push the old man out of town. She is also very interested in Scott’s finances, and her overanxious concern sends up a few red flags.
So many, in fact, that with some shrewd detective work and ludicrous twists, Atticus eventually determines that Scott is alive. Will they repair their relationship? Will love prevail? It’s a Sunday night movie — what do you think?
Atticus may seem like the perfect character for Coburn, but his execution is way off the mark. The bristly thesp, so evil and electric in his Academy Award-winning “Affliction” role, is unable to persuade as both a manly rustler and a lonely soul who demands the truth.
And that’s a shame, because “Pieces” is a project in need of a galvanizing lead. As a victim of circumstance and a stoic statesman, Atticus and his search take center stage; his being thrown into an unfamiliar place is part of this story’s allure, but Coburn just looks awkward.
So does everyone else. Kersey is unexciting as the Biff Loman-like drifter, and Zane is an over-the-top noir femme with no sincerity.
Tech credits feel too staged, especially the Santa Barbara sites that stand in for border town locales.