August 02, 2004 12:00 PM

TNT (Fri., July 30, 8 p.m. ET)

“Some days I don’t understand you at all,” his wife, Linda (Jaime Pressly), says to motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel (George Eads). “But I do know that you’re gonna do what you have to do.”

That’s about all the insight you can expect from this mediocre TV movie, which concentrates on the subject’s death-defying prime in the 1960s and ’70s. Linda gets furious over her husband’s boozing and tomcatting. She frets about the danger of his stunts, particularly after he suffers near-fatal injuries in an attempt to soar over the fountains at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. But when he seems ready to hang it up, she challenges him not to be a quitter. You know that old song.

Though Eads has the right bravado for the role, there’s no way he can turn “I jump bikes—that’s what I do” into a convincing statement of a man’s sense of duty—even if he smashes a vase for emphasis. The film gives the impression that it doesn’t exactly buy Knievel’s self-promotion and patriotic blather, but it also wants to sell him as some kind of American hero. It ends with Knievel on his motorcycle, frozen in midair. We’re left not caring much where he comes down.


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