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Double Platinum

Think of "Double Platinum" not as a telepic, but as a particularly elaborate Mother's Day infomercial, one that injects superficial poignance as a method of reviving the career of one singer (Diana Ross) and enhancing the surge of a second (Brandy). As things play out in Nina Shengold's shamelessly manipulative and cornball teleplay, the message seems to be that no maternal crisis is so complex that it cannot be mitigated by the performance of a track from one's CD.

Think of “Double Platinum” not as a telepic, but as a particularly elaborate Mother’s Day infomercial, one that injects superficial poignance as a method of reviving the career of one singer (Diana Ross) and enhancing the surge of a second (Brandy). For Ross, the prize is some much-needed reflected glory; for Brandy, it’s a graduation into the vast spotlight of May sweeps. For the audience, it’s the equivalent of staring at an “Applause” sign for 120 minutes while the stars preen with impunity, basking in the glow of their own wonderfulness.

As things play out in Nina Shengold’s shamelessly manipulative and cornball teleplay, the message seems to be that no maternal crisis is so complex that it cannot be mitigated by the performance of a track from one’s CD. Maybe that’s why Ross and Brandy both get exec producer credits for this picture.

In “Double Platinum,” when the going gets tough, the tough get onstage. A primetime platform to promote one’s music is apparently a potent formula for curing what ails you, even if what ails you has been festering for 18 years.

Story opens in 1981, with Olivia King (Ross) caring in Atlanta for her newborn daughter Kayla (Brandy) while trapped in a dead-end marriage to Adam (Brian Stokes Mitchell). When the opportunity comes for Olivia to pursue a long-sought singing career in New York City, Adam shouts something abusive at her. That night, she slips out of the house and out of their lives until, well, 1999.

Cut to the present day. Olivia, now a world-famous crooner, decides one fine day to rig a radio station contest that allows her to reunite with daughter Kayla after having not seen her or contacted her once during those 18 long years (Adam tossed out all of her letters and intercepted any phone calls).

What inspired this brazen communication? Well, it seems that Kayla now has singing aspirations of her own, and, well, Olivia might just want the pair to follow in the footsteps of the Judds or something. Oh sure, there’s that whole abandonment/guilt thing, too, but that’s all supposed to take a back seat to showbiz, isn’t it?

Anyway, when Olivia finally tells Kayla the truth about, you know, being her mother and all of that, you’d think that the performer in Kayla would embrace the nepotistic career advancement possibilities. But no-o-o-o-o! Kayla is instead irate, incredulous, shocked and just all kinds of angry. For her part, Olivia is pretty wiped out, too. She’s never before faced this kind of competition from someone who sounded so much like her!

So naturally, the women go off and do what any sensitive mother and daughter would when faced with such an emotional issue: They pour themselves into sequined costumes, summon their respective bands and sing something from a recent disc. This is apparently known in some circles as “mother-daughter bonding.”

The ironic part is that both Ross and Brandy are skilled enough actresses not to need this. But that acting asset is called upon here only fleetingly. More often, helmer Robert Allan Ackerman is utilized to assist choreographer Travis Payne in steering Brandy through three fully staged songs from her quadruple-platinum disc “Never

S-A-Y Never” and Ross through five from her forthcoming Motown release “Every Day Is a New Day.”

Any time the story is close to building a little momentum, the action stops dead in favor of some wholly unrelated lung exercise. It is so flagrantly promotional as to be absurd. Once the mother-daughter trauma subsides for this pair, the two women are supposed to be caught in the throes of professional rivalry. But with all of this singing, who has time to fight?

Christine Ebersole, Harvey Fierstein and others pop up in cameos. Yet character performances aren’t what the ludicrous “Double Platinum” is about. It’s about marketing actresses and peddling CDs. And if Ross looks fabulous throughout, one almost feels like a party to the exploitation merely in pointing it out.

Film’s technical aspects are all handled capably.

Double Platinum

ABC; Sun. May 16, 9 p.m.

  • Production: Filmed in and around New York City by Anaid Prods., Norwood Prods. and Storyline Entertainment in association with Columbia TriStar TV. Executive producers, Diana Ross, Brandy, Sonja B. Norwood, Craig Zadan, Neil Meron; producer, Lynn Raynor; director, Robert Allan Ackerman; writer, Nina Shengold
  • Crew:
  • Cast: Olivia King - Diana Ross Kayla Harris - Brandy Ric Ortega - Allen Payne Peggy - Christine Ebersole Adam Harris - Brian Stokes Mitchell Marc Reckler - Roger Rees Royana - Samantha Brown Party Ardie - Ed Lover Martin Holly - Peter James Francis Gary Millstein - Harvey Fierstein Choreography, Travis Payne; camera, Michael Fash; production designer, Michael Johnston; editor, Scott Vickrey; music, David Shire; sound, Dennis Maitland; casting, Rosalie Joseph. 2 HOURS.
  • Music By: