TNT reunites the creative team that delivered the Emmy-winning “Door to Door” in this less successful and frequently dour drama, very loosely inspired by the charming Jackie Gleason vehicle “Gigot.” In both movies the lead character is mute, but despite the advertiser-backed nature of this “Johnson & Johnson Spotlight” presentation, the producers have traded bittersweet for edgy and the original’s Paris setting for a grungy, nondescript U.S. location — with mostly unsatisfying results.
The core story remains similar mainly in its focus on the relationship between Gigot (co-writer-producer-star William H. Macy) and a young girl he befriends. Here, the script has given the central character a promotion from janitor to superintendent of a slum-like building, where a drug-abusing mother leaves him to oversee her precocious daughter, Lou (newcomer Keke Palmer). He’s reluctant at first, but eventually becomes attached to the kid, and she in turn to him.
As captured by co-writer-producer-director Steven Schachter, however, nothing good can last for long, and Lou is eventually squired away into foster care. Unfortunately, Gigot (pronounced zhee-go) has a past that prevents him from seeking custody, including a problem with alcohol and a scarred psyche connected to the youthful accident that robbed him of speech.
His support system, such as it is, includes an elderly neighbor (Don Rickles) and sometimes bed partner (Catherine O’Hara), whom he enlists in an effort to get Lou back. Those avenues exhausted, he eventually seeks out his estranged father (Ned Beatty), piling more bathos onto an already somewhat leaden and overly familiar story.
It’s not difficult to see why Macy would be attracted to this exercise, relying almost solely on facial expressions to sell his performance. Unfortunately, as devised here, Gigot’s range of emotions seldom deviate from forlorn, confused or angry, a far cry from the clownish sense of melancholy Gleason brought to the 1962 film as co-writer and star. Palmer, meanwhile, offers an appealing presence but can’t accomplish much with a thinly written character.
Ultimately, there’s still something warming to be found about the redemptive power of love and unconventional families, but it’s a painful and disjointed road getting there — including an especially sour note involving a pet that’s reason enough to discourage children from viewing.
In short, for anyone who harbors an attachment to the Gleason film, at least you’ll always have Paris.