Run time: 89 mins
In Theaters: Sunday 5th December 1999
Distributed by: ABC
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 71%
Fresh: 5 Rotten: 2
IMDB: 7.5 / 10
Director: Mick Jackson
Screenwriter: Tom Rickman
As Brandeis University professor Morrie Schwartz's body deteriorated from Lou Gehrig's Disease, former student Albom decided to record the man's thoughts on an array of topics. If the movie is anything like the book, then Morrie sounds like the world's foremost pop psychologist.
And that's part of the problem I had watching the adaptation. Albom claims that Morrie was "a force" in the classroom, but he gets stuck saying things like "once you learn how to die, you learn how to live." Albom is certainly a happier person for having talked to his teacher, but I get the feeling he could have rented Old Yeller or watched a few self-help infomercials and came out OK.
Sarcastic comments aside, I can't fault a made-for-TV movie that has sturdy, sensitive performances and good intentions. If I can be taught about the values of life and not want to smack any of the characters upside the head, then the movie can't be all that bad.
Hank Azaria (The Birdcage) plays Albom, a work-obsessed Detroit sportswriter who is constantly on the go. His world stops when he sees a news special profiling Morrie's condition. Some 15 years after promising to keep in touch and not doing so, Albom decides to visit his professor. Pretty soon, they regularly meet on Tuesdays--Morrie's old office hours.
Jack Lemmon plays Morrie, a man whose indomitable spirit is still whole regardless of the medical obstacles he faces. It's a role that could have been played like a geriatric Patch Adams, but Lemmon (one of the best actors of his generation) handles the role with grace.
Azaria, always an undervalued actor, does a good job and even sounds a bit like Albom, a regular on ESPN. Azaria has always had a slightly cynical streak to him that makes him more human. That trait serves him especially well in this occasionally sudsy, but overall entertaining fare.