December 14, 1998 12:00 PM

ABC (Sun., Dec. 13, 7 p.m. ET)

“Small-Town Sleuths with Talking Pets” sounds like a panel on Ricki Lake’s syndicated daytime talk show. Instead it’s the premise for a Wonderful World of Disney television movie in which Lake stars. Murder She Purred: A Mrs. Murphy Mystery, based on a Rita Mae Brown novel, is an enjoyable light whodunit for family consumption (excluding viewers who are too young for any mention of murder).

Lake, who charmed moviegoers in John Waters’s Hairspray (1988) five years before taking up the talk show racket, is quite likable as Mary “Harry” Haristeen, a Virginia postmistress trying to figure out whether her handsome new neighbor (Linden Ashby) bumped off a local businessman. She has help from her archly suspicious cat Mrs. Murphy (voiced by Blythe Danner) and her constantly hungry dog Tucker (Anthony Clark), who can get sidetracked by a dirty piece of cheese. The pets have ways of guiding Lake in the right direction, but they converse only with fellow animals. This is no Dr. Dolittle, just a nice diversion.

Bottom Line: The cat’s meow

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