May 23, 1988 12:00 PM

CBS (Thurs., May 19, 9 p.m. ET)


Before the falls of Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart, this movie probably could not have been made. Promised a Miracle dares to raise questions about religion, particularly the fundamentalist sort, and to ask whether devotion to faith can go too far. It is based on the true story of Larry and Lucky Parker (PEOPLE, May 16) who wanted to believe that a faith healer had cured their son’s diabetes. His insulin was withheld, and their son died. Next they believed that he would be resurrected. He was buried. And the Parkers were convicted of manslaughter and child abuse. Judge Reinhold and Rosanna Arquette play the Parkers with impressive warmth and sympathy, but that causes problems for the movie because its producers never seem too sure about how to view these parents. They should be and are portrayed as both pathetic and dangerous. But the movie also comes treacherously close to making them into laughingstocks. When Reinhold contemplates his son’s resurrection, he shakes his head and says, “I still think that a casket is a terrible waste.” For a moment I thought I was watching a sick skit from Monty Python. Then, after having made the Parkers look naive at best, the movie turns around and transforms them into voices of wisdom so they can declare, “God heals in many ways, including medicine,” and so they can confess, “We’re crazy for trying to believe what can’t be believed.” The mistake is telling the story wholly from the Parkers’ dubious vantage point. Perhaps a narrator or a dispassionate character—say, a judge—could have added perspective to the story when the Parkers had none. Still, Miracle tries hard to help us learn lessons from this tragedy, and it has the courage to take on a sensitive subject. For that, I suppose we have the Reverends Jim to thank.

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