Charlie & Me



9 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 6
Hallmark Channel

Anyone with the courage to watch this film on Saturday night is advised to keep at least two boxes of Kleenex close by, as "Charlie & Me" is a world-class tearjerker the likes of which you rarely see anymore.

I deliver this information simply as a public service rather than an element of criticism or praise. But the truth is that as maudlin family fare goes, this Hallmark Channel Original telepic truly is in a league of its own. I mean, here we have a heart-rending story about a heart attack victim who moves his workaholic son to locate his own heart before it's too late. This isn't a movie so much as a triple bypass.

It's also a simple fact that if you can't find a soft spot in your own heart for Tom Bosley playing a beloved grandpa who lives his life according to the jazz stylings of Louis Armstrong, it's fairly clear that you need a little bit of heart surgery yourself. I think they have balloons they can run through your arteries to fix this sort of thing.

Bosley is the Charlie of the film's title -- Charlie Baker, to be precise. He's a widower in failing health whose heart attack early on signals a ticker whose expiration date is fast approaching. What's keeping him alive is his feisty and precocious 12-year-old granddaughter, Casey (a superb and, well, heartfelt performance by Jordy Benattar). Casey's dad, Jeffrey (James Gallanders), also is, like his dad, a widower whose wife died some nine years before. His way of dealing was to toss himself into work and escape.

But no worries. By the end of two impossibly poignant hours, Jeff will have been so shamed by the monumental goodness of Charlie that it's safe to presume his heart will open wide, though less in a surgical than a sublimely sensitive way. That's not a spoiler. Think of it more as a warning.

Life is never quite as monumentally meaningful and tidy as it turns out to be in Karen Struck's teleplay. But let it be said beyond any cynicism that the ageless Bosley and the delightful Benattar enjoy some genuinely bracing chemistry -- and the kid surely can act.