Executing a rare double possessive flagging the brand-name talent involved — “Oprah Winfrey Presents Mitch Albom’s For One More Day” — this latest ABC movie blessed by daytime’s queen should deliver in the ratings and buttress Albom’s reputation as one of our foremost purveyors of cultural baby food. Even sappier than the author’s teeth-rotting “The Five People You Meet in Heaven,” Albom has drifted from “Tuesdays With Morrie” to “One More Day With Mommy,” delivering another fuzzy lecture about family and spiritual uplift. A wannabe three-hankie affair, it’s mostly enough to make you wish he’d stuck to sportswriting.
Proving there’s not just life but a vapid afterlife following “The Sopranos,” Michael Imperioli (who also co-starred in Albom’s “Heaven”) stars as a washed-out baseball player named Chick who has become an alcoholic, made a mess of his life and is ready to cash it all in with a bullet. Suddenly, he’s visited by his late mother, Posey (Ellen Burstyn), who beatifically leads him through a sort-of “It’s a Crappy Life (But Not Really, if You Have Family)” stroll down memory lane.
In those flashbacks, we see young Chick (played by the actor’s son, Vadim Imperioli) caught between the young Posey (Samantha Mathis) and his stern, demanding father (Scott Cohen), who seeks to toughen the lad so he can become a pro and lead a life less ordinary. Ah, but what is “ordinary,” especially if that means alienating the people who should be dearest to you?
Adapting his own paper-thin book, Albom and director Lloyd Kramer tackle the material with conviction and, thanks to the technical crew, bring a meticulous look to the period scenes. They also benefit from solid performances by Burstyn and Mathis in their shared role as well as from Lennie Niehaus’ score.
Even so, it’s difficult to redeem greeting-card dialogue like “When somebody’s in your heart, they’re never truly gone,” or the fact that every beat of the Capra-esque story is telegraphed with a saccharine-sweet sense of how it’s all going to pan out.
With the major networks largely abandoning the TV movie business, only a few niche offerings still survive, with “Oprah Winfrey Presents” becoming ABC’s answer to “The Hallmark Hall of Fame” as a seal of wholesomeness, if not necessarily quality. And while there’s no denying the Midas touch that Winfrey wields commercially — or, for that matter, the feel-good niche that Albom has carved out for himself — “For One More Day” is yet another groan-inducing reminder how all that glitters is not gold.