Based on a true story, Taking Chance (Saturday, 7 p.m., HBO) couldn't be more simple: a Marine officer volunteers to escort the remains of an Iraq War casualty to their final resting place in Montana. The feelings it stirs up couldn't be more complex.
Kevin Bacon plays Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, who puzzles his family and colleagues by asking to escort the corpse of Chance Phelps, a soldier he didn't know. It's unconventional for an officer to escort a private, and Strobl's motives are a bit mysterious. On the trip, he holds in his emotions through the many strict rituals that attend a fallen soldier's transportation and burial. The body is treated with the utmost respect, saluted on the tarmac, in the hearse, even when no one else is watching. Bacon communicates volumes merely with his erect posture and pursed lips.
Handing a formal letter to the family members, making sure the corpse's uniform is straight, draping a flag over the coffin - the movie obsesses on the little things we do to honor someone who died for his country. Do these things make up for the loss? Confer meaning on the sacrifice? Transcend the political issues surrounding the Iraq War?
Leave those questions for another movie. Taking Chance just wants to bury Private Phelps with honor, and to allow you to tip your hat as his coffin passes by. It does, and you will.
The Barbara Walters Special
Sunday, 6 pm (ABC)
For her annual pre-Oscars special, Baba Wawa interviews Mickey Rourke, Anne Hathaway, the Jonas Brothers and Hugh Jackman. Many will tune in just to see the R-challenged Walters try to wrap her lips around the word "Rourke."
Sunday, 7 pm (ABC)
Should I watch or should I not? On the minus side:
I pretty much know what will happen, thanks to last month's Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards. Kate Winslet will take herself way too seriously and do that falling-apart-at-the-podium act. Slumdog Millionaire or The Reader will beat Milk for Best Picture and make me very angry. The broadcast will spend most of its time on awards we don't care about (Sound Editing, Art Direction, Makeup, etc.) and rush the acting winners we do care about.
On the plus side:
Amy Adams will parade around in beautiful new gown.
High School Reunion
Wednesday, 9 pm (TV Land)
TV Land's reality series tends to be the same season after season, with no new twists. Once again, high school classmates gather after 20 years. Former lovers eye each other awkwardly. Former losers labor to prove that they're now winners. Long-suppressed secrets spill out, and old resentments fester.
The most resentful of the bunch is a woman labeled The Wannabe, who's still steaming over her mistreatment at the hands of The Cheerleader. At mealtime, she confides to a fellow classmate, "I want to grab a salad fork, jam it in her mouth and shout, 'Stop talking! Stop talking!'"
Okay, I concede that an onscreen murder via salad fork would count as a new twist.
Little Miss Perfect
Wednesday, 9 pm (WE)
This reality series ventures into the creepy underworld of children's pageants. Each episode follows two families as they make their way-too-young daughter smile and pose on the road to the Little Miss Perfect crown. One young victim has been in the pageant biz since she was 8 months old; another is made to pretend that she's a grade-school Marilyn Monroe.
I await WE's Little Miss Perfect reunion show in 2012, renamed Little Miss Nervous Breakdown.