Attending Harvard, it turns out, is the perfect feel-good finale for youth movies, which explains why the team behind “Homeless to Harvard” was behind this latest inspirational true story, “Finding a Family,” for Hallmark Movie Channel. Although suspense isn’t part of the Hallmark formula, the tale of Alex Chivescu — a ward of the state who fulfilled the dream instilled in him by his mother of joining the Ivy League — lumbers along pretty uneventfully, including what amounts to an extended cameo by star/producer Kim Delaney. Unlike its protagonist, the movie barely gets by as a pass-fail proposition.
“Education is like a magic key to open any door,” Delaney’s Ileana tells her young son, Alex, at the outset, before a car crash and related head injury yield unpredictable bouts of depression and anger that make her unfit to raise him. Seven years later, Alex (Jared Abrahamson) escapes her custody, then excels at school while bouncing through the foster-care system.
Faced with being forced to relocate, Alex takes it upon himself to find a family that will allow him to stay at his current school — keeping his college ambitions alive — and winds up with the too-good-to-be-true Bantes (Sarah-Jane Redmond, Paul McGillion), who have to keep reassuring him he’s deserving of their love and support.
And that’s about that. Other than the inevitable payoff, the entire exercise feels as if it’s simply marking time. Delaney disappears through the entire midsection, and Abrahamson — while wide-eyed and fresh-faced — isn’t interesting enough to hold the screen, though he can’t be faulted for the lack of pace or urgency in Mark Jean’s direction of Pamela Wallace’s script.
There’s nothing wrong, necessarily, with movies that start from a happy ending and work backwards, but they do require creating a bit of dramatic tension in order to make the uplifting finale resonate.
As is, while it’s swell things worked out for the real-life Alex, his triumphant march to a first-rate education, alas, has resulted in a second-rate TV movie.