James Brolin, whose extensive acting career dates back to the early 1960s but who has received more press in the past few years in connection with his singing spouse than anything he’s done in front of the camera, adds little to this ho-hum murder mystery that’s nothing more than an excuse for a voyeuristic peek into the world of polygamy. If the Eye net hopes viewers will tune in here and away from NBC juggernaut “The West Wing,” President Bartlett has nothing to worry about.
After the pic starts off with a reunion between a sailor and his sweetheart, we learn that Dave Passenger (Brolin), a naval criminal investigative agent, is not the world’s greatest dad. His daughter, Erica (Amanda Fuller), has just flown across the country to see him in San Diego as part of an arrangement with his ex.
Conservative as they get, Brolin’s Dave doesn’t know where to begin a conversation with his estranged 15-year-old child. Erica is a teen who’s lived on the wild side in Miami, including being involved in a stolen car incident. Just as they begin to further annoy one another in the airport, he gets a phone call sending him to the local naval base to investigate the murder of the girl from the opening scene.
The investigation takes Dave and Erica to the small town of Fortune, Ariz., where it turns out that nearly the entire community are polygamists. Of course, conservative Dave quickly condemns everyone and asks rudimentary questions without pressing for more answers to move the case along.
The tedious storyline moves about as quick as Dave’s eagerness in solving this case, in which every citizen of Fortune is seemingly more interested in milking cows and eating dinner with their dozen or so siblings than finding out who killed one of their own. Of course, love interests soon ensue: one between Dave and Ingrid Bast (Virginia Madsen), the daughter of Sheriff Bast (Michael Moriarty), the other between Erica and Andrew (Eric Johnson), Madsen’s younger brother and one of the sheriff’s countless children roaming in and out of the house.
There are nuggets of an interesting story here, specifically about the inner workings of a polygamist family. Ingrid actually discusses one burning question: How does each wife know when it’s their turn to sleep with their husband? She confesses it’s nothing more than following a schedule attached to the refrigerator, much like a list of daily chores.More information like that would have made this telepic more compelling.
Ultimately, Dave receives the right clues to decipher who murdered the runaway girl, and he and Erica bond after a few days in the middle of Arizona desert, making up for years of not speaking to one another.
Tech credits are fine, and the cinematography capturing the rugged Arizona skyline makes for a few memorable scenes.