By Terry Kelleher
Updated August 13, 2001 12:00 PM

Showtime (Sun., Aug. 12, 8 p.m. ET)

Viewers with a low tolerance for sentiment and sermonizing may have trouble giving themselves over to this adaptation of Pete Hamill’s 1997 novel. But Snow in August has a good cast, a warm heart and a decent set of values.

The setting is Brooklyn in 1947. Michael Devlin (Peter Tambakis), an 11-year-old Catholic school pupil, witnesses the beating of a Jewish merchant by a bigoted gang leader. Fearing reprisal—and obeying the code of the street—Michael refuses to squeal on the teenage punk, despite a gentle nudge from his widowed Irish mother (Lolita Davidovich, sounding a bit like Maureen O’Hara). Then he forms a friendship with Rabbi Judah Hirsch (Stephen Rea), a refugee from Prague. Michael teaches the rabbi English and baseball; the older man provides instruction in Yiddish, Jewish folklore and matters of right and wrong. The boy seems especially struck by the rabbi’s argument that the Dodgers’ Jackie Robinson, in breaking baseball’s color line, represents persecution victims worldwide. Even after the film turns toward melodrama and fantasy, Rea (The Crying Game) and Tambakis make you believe in their characters’ improbable bond.

Bottom Line: Worthy family fare