August 25, 1997 12:00 PM

Disney Channel (Sat, Aug. 23, 7 p.m. ET)


Yes, Diane Keaton reluctantly inherits a child again. But this cable original is not close kin to the hit 1987 movie Baby Boom, which starred her as a high-powered executive saddled with a dead cousin’s infant girl. This time Keaton plays a widow with a humdrum job, and the kid (Joseph Cross) is her late, estranged brother’s 9-year-old boy. Besides, the key difference is one of tone: Baby Boom was a conventional comedy; Northern Lights is determinedly dotty.

For her brother’s funeral, Keaton journeys from New York to Bright River Junction, a small New England community where peculiarity seems an obligation of citizenship. The film is so immersed in the sweet eccentricity of the townsfolk that it forgets to reveal enough about either Keaton’s character or the mild Midwestern merchant (Maury Chaykin) named by her brother as joint guardian of her nephew. Keaton is believably brittle while keeping the boy at arm’s length, but when Bright River turns her warm and fuzzy, we realize we never knew her in the first place.

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