For the Love of Grace

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Airdate: 9-11 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 30 (Hallmark Channel)

"For the Love of Grace" is one of those unfortunate made-for-television movies that can't find its way to taking off and flying right. It stays grounded in the humdrum of the ordinary, and that's not good for anyone involved, especially the viewer. This story of a man and a woman who find their way to each other after suffering their own wounded pasts is slow-going and not very original for all the trouble.

The movie's two leads, Mark Consuelos ("Husband for Hire") and Chandra West ("John From Cincinnati"), don't have enough strength to overcome the very dull script they've been given to work with. To add to the dullness, Consuelos can hardly manage a smile or any emotion for most of his time on the small screen. West is perky enough but has been given nothing original to say, no unique place to go with her character. Each one of these characters is supposed to have suffered a bad relationship, or a tragic one, but the scripts seems to hold such little interest in its own characters that it's nearly impossible for anyone watching to get involved or find any mutual ground with Consuelos or West.

Director Craig Pryce keeps the pace low-key and uneventful, since there is really no place to take them. Paul Reuhl and Ramona Barchert's teleplay is so unoriginal that there is little else Pryce can do. Even the editing gets bogged down by the emotional and psychological pallor that grips the story and characters. It's not only that the movie is predictable, which isn't a crime in and of itself. It's that "For the Love of Grace" is so shamefully unoriginal. What could the producers have been thinking (or the actors, or writers, for that matter), knowing they were concocting a story that borrows (or rehashes) every cliche piece of dialogue in the book (for the romantic drama) and adds nothing new to the pot? Even Gerald Packer's often good-looking photography gets lost in this one.

"Grace" takes us down a road we've traveled many, many times, it and has nothing original to say along the way, no real charm to draw us in and make us want to stay for the ride.

Production: A Whizbang Films production in association with Lee Distribution. Cast: Mark Consuelos, Chandra West, Ennis Esmer, Cara Pifko, Corbin Bernsen. Director: Craig Pryce. Writers: Paul Reuhl, Ramona Barckert. Executive producers: Frank Siracusa, Orly Adelson, Amy Goldberg. Producer: Ian McDougall. Co-executive producer: Mark Consuelos.

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