A WALTON THANKSGIVING REUNION: Review taken from TV Guide, November 20, 1993.
An emotional holiday get-together.
This 1993 TV-movie reunites some of the original cast members from The Waltons, the Emmy-award winning series that aired on CBS from 1972 to '81. Back then, the drama revolved around a large, close-knit family in rural Virginia, getting by on hope, togetherness and a modest income through the Depression and the onset of World War 11.
Now, however, it's November of 1963, and a Thanksgiving celebration
at the Virginia homestead beckons the far-flung clan, including
John-Boy (Richard Thomas) once an aspiring novelist, who has become
a national TV commentator in New York. But the homecoming is darkened
by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, whose death
changes the course of some lives in the family.
A Walton Thankgiving Reunion: Review taken from Variety November 19, 1993
(Sun. (21), 9-11 p.m. CBS)
Filmed in Los Angeles by the Lee Rich Co. and Amanda Prods. in association with Warner Bros. Television. Exec producers, Earl Hamner, Lee Rich, Bruce Sallan; producer, Sam Manners; director Harry Harris; writers, Claire Whitaker, Rod Peterson; camera, Chuck Arnold; editor, Bob Bring; art director, Ray Markham; sound, Mark Ulano; music, Alexander Courage.
With: Richard Thomas, Ralph Waite, Michael Learned, Ellen Corby, Jon Walmsey, Judy Norton, Mary McDonough, Eric Scott, David Harper, Kami Cotler, Joe Conley, Ronnie Claire [Edwards], Tony Becker, Steven Culp, Lisa Harrison, Kate McNeil, Peggy Rae, Leslie Winston, Mary Jackson, Helen Kleeb, James Karen, Stanley Grover, Christian Cousins, Lynn Hamilton, Emily Ann Lloyd, Robert Donner, Peter Fox, Rachel Longaker, Joseph Chapman.
"A Walton Thanksgiving Reunion" suffers from the problems that plague most movies of the genre: The two hour time limit gives an artificial feel and pace, forcing both exposition of everyone's past and present and overly simplistic resolution of contemporary situations.
Pic has the Walton clan gathering on the eve of John F. Kennedy's assassination. ('Why everyone is coming home eight days before Thanksgiving is never explained -- it would have been more effective to have the clan gather afterward.)
While tying a reunion movie to a major historical event is a novelty, it doesn't work: One of the themes of the series was how the Waltons were basically impervious to the influences of the outside world.
The country could have been going to hell in a handbasket -and was; remember, the series was set in the Depression -- but the family was never affected. The writers may have touched upon outside events during the series' run, but those events never really influenced the Walton s' lives.
The Kennedy plot device seems most effective for establishing John-Boy's (Richard Thomas) career as a journalist and setting up the conflict between him and his girlfriend, Jamet (Kate McNeil), who thinks his first priority is his work. He leaves her with his family while he goes off to Washington to cover the president's funeral. Only really moving, credible moment that centers around the assassination has Verdie (Lynn Hamilton) mourning JFK's death because of his stand on Civil Rights.
Virtually everyone from the original cast reprises their roles. Many of the cameos seem forced; most entertaining are Mary Jackson and Helen Kleeb as the moonshining Baldwin Sisters.
Under Harry Harris' lackluster direction, a number of flat performances are given. Thomas, Ralph Waite and Michael Learned (as Ma and Pa Walton) are all exceptionally good, however.
A few era-related gripes: Most of the women have makeup, hairstyles and clothes that are not faithful to the period; and "workaholic' and "junk food" were not part of the lexicon in 1963.
Despite the flaws, fans of the immensely popular series will probably enjoy the trek up Walton's Mountain. And since Pa Walton announces at the end that he is going to run for county commissioner, and John-Boy and Janet get engaged; the stage is set for another movie.
But for those who found the series treacly and unbearable,
the pic will seem the same way.