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Dean Koontz’s ‘Mr. Murder’

A more accurate title than "Dean Koontz's 'Mr. Murder'" might be, "You See One Baldwin, You've Seen 'Em All. In this tepid and odd two-nighter, not even Stephen Baldwin's family can differentiate him from his evil gene-spliced twin (also played by Baldwin), clearly illustrating that one misplaced scrap of DNA can ruin your whole day.

With:
Marty Stillwater/Alfie - Stephen Baldwin Paige Stillwater - Julie Warner Lt. Lowbock - Bill Smitrovich Drew Oslett Jr. - Thomas Haden Church Drew Oslett Sr. - James Coburn Charlotte Stillwater - Kaley Cuoco Emily Stillwater - Brittney Lee Harvey James Stillwater - Don Hood Alice Stillwater - K Callen Gen. Aames - Dan Lauria Clocker - Don McManus Lamont - Dennis Creaghan

A more accurate title than “Dean Koontz’s ‘Mr. Murder'” might be, “You See One Baldwin, You’ve Seen ‘Em All.” Here we have four hours of familial resemblance and mistaken identity, which is something that the Baldwin brothers no doubt face on a daily basis. In this tepid and odd two-nighter, not even Stephen Baldwin’s family can differentiate him from his evil gene-spliced twin (also played by Baldwin), clearly illustrating that one misplaced scrap of DNA can ruin your whole day.

Consider this take-off on the identical-twin scenario: One of them is a successful mystery writer and family man. The other is a remorseless killing machine whose table manners appear to have been appropriated from the Dennis Rodman School of Dining.

The operative word when describing “Mr. Murder” is dumb. Marty Stillwater (Baldwin) is a really hip, bestselling novelist with a beautiful loving wife (Julie Warner) and two perfectly adorable daughters (Kaley Cuoco, Brittney Lee Harvey). And while Marty doesn’t really have an evil twin, he does have an evil clone. In this Stephen Tolkin adaptation from the Koontz bestseller, depraved industrialist Drew Oslett Jr. (Thomas Haden Church) accidentally mixes a sample of Marty’s blood with a hunky athlete the industrialist planned to use to create the perfect superhuman warrior to help him dominate the world.

But instead of cloning the athlete, Oslett makes the perfect double of … Marty Stillwater.

The clone (code name: Alfie) stumbles around feeling all kinds of conflict. Alfie can’t decide if he wants to kill someone … or merely write a killer sentence. He feels like a loner, and yet he craves this family he’s never met.

And then one day, he decides to shut down the murderous impulses (which enter his body through a connector in his shoe) and goes searching for the wife and kids whom he somehow believes Marty Stillwater has stolen from him. He bursts into the Stillwaters’ empty pristine suburban home and sits down at the computer to craft a sentence. When the words won’t come easily, he puts his fist through the monitor, no doubt echoing the sentiments of many a blocked scribe.

Family members for the most part never see Marty and Alfie at the same time, so everybody basically thinks Marty is merely losing his mind when he starts feeling hallucinatory flashes and eerie shivers of dread traipsing through him.

Then, finally, while Marty and family are all present, Alfie shows up wielding a really powerful handgun. The good news: Marty isn’t insane after all. The bad news: Marty isn’t insane after all.

It’s right about here — just as part two of “Mr. Murder” is warming up — that Tolkin’s teleplay adaptation begins to lose full touch with reality. See, Baldwin isn’t sly enough to make Marty and Alfie disturbingly similar — or at least helmer Dick Lowry wasn’t.

What we get instead is Baldwin, in the incarnation of the superhuman killer, speaking … as … if … he … had … just … learned … proper … speaking … technique … from … Big … Bird. Despite their identical appearance, it doesn’t take Einstein to tell the two guys apart, rather like hearing the difference between George Clooney and Tinky-Winky.

And after Alfie raids Marty’s closet to steal the single preppy style and color of shirt and pants that the writer seems willing to wear, it never occurs to Marty that it may be easier for his wife and daughters to identify him if he’d just change shirts — or, better yet, remove them.

It’s likewise tough to break much of a sweat over this mini when the characters played by Warner, Cuoco and Harvey seem so gloriously calm about the whole thing, as if the murderous clone of your husband/daddy shows up every day to rub you out and help keep the clone’s appointment with world domination.

Church, as the oily Oslett Jr., fares best here with his oddball role, while James Coburn (in a cameo as Drew Oslett Sr.) is his usual smooth-as-silk self. But Baldwin is frustratingly inconsistent. One could say that comes with the territory in a dual role like this, but the entire enterprise could have worked much more effectively were he portraying behavioral clones as well as physical ones.

But again, this asks “Mr. Murder” to make more sense than it ever probably intended to.

Tech credits are sharp enough.

Popular on Variety

Dean Koontz's 'Mr. Murder'

ABC; Mon. April 26, 9 p.m.; Thurs. April 29, 9 p.m.

Production: Filmed in Los Angeles and Placerville, Calif., by Patchett Kaufman Entertainment and Elephant Walk Entertainment in association with ProSieben A.G. and Endemol Entertainment Intl. B.V. Executive producers, Kenneth Kaufman, Robert Lee, George Jackson, Doug McHenry; co-executive producer, Dean Koontz; supervising producer, Ann Kindberg; producer, Kaufman; director, Dick Lowry; writer, Stephen Tolkin, based on the novel by Koontz

Cast: Marty Stillwater/Alfie - Stephen Baldwin Paige Stillwater - Julie Warner Lt. Lowbock - Bill Smitrovich Drew Oslett Jr. - Thomas Haden Church Drew Oslett Sr. - James Coburn Charlotte Stillwater - Kaley Cuoco Emily Stillwater - Brittney Lee Harvey James Stillwater - Don Hood Alice Stillwater - K Callen Gen. Aames - Dan Lauria Clocker - Don McManus Lamont - Dennis CreaghanCamera, Greg Gardiner; production designer, Guy Barnes; editor, Brent White; music, Louis Febre; sound, Brian Bidder; casting, Junie Lowry-Johnson. 4 HOURS

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