September 18, 1978 12:00 PM

With legends like Jimmy Stewart, Mickey Rooney and Alice Faye, plus the very warp and woof of canine cinema, this could have been a real tail wagger. Unfortunately, the first Lassie movie in 28 years does nothing to improve the reputation of the family film. Lassie, of course, performs impeccably, never blowing a trick as she runs away from a meanie millionaire (Pernell Roberts) back home to Grandpa Stewart and his two grandchildren. Hitching her way across Colorado, she feigns limps, falls down mountains, rescues a kitten in distress and otherwise acts like a director’s best friend, even though she has to put up with Debby Boone singing sappy songs in the background. Stewart, Rooney and Faye—despite their estimable credits—don’t seem to have much of a way with animals. It just goes to show: You can’t teach an old human new tricks. (G)

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