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POPE JOHN PAUL II Two-part film; CBS, Sun. Dec. 4, 9 p.m.; Wed. Dec. 7, 8 p.m. Starring: Jon Voight, Gary Elwes, James Cromwell, Christopher Lee
Though the moment is comical at first--as Cary Elwes puts on his papal vestments and magically morphs into Jon Voight--that campy transformation actually elevates the second half of CBS' "Pope John Paul II" above its twin counterparts from Hallmark (in August) and ABC (days earlier than this one). That's because Voight, more than any of these make-believe pontiffs, invests the man with a likability and sense of whimsy that conveys why he connected with people so profoundly. Beyond that, he has also mastered that stiff-wristed Vatican wave, which is no mean feat.
CBS gets there last with its pope film, and it's telling that both nets opted to go with God outside of the November sweeps. Even so, this international co-production provides the strongest portrait of this pope's impact, his grace and perseverance despite the ravages of Parkinson's disease, as well as his affinity for youth and charismatic power to reach them.
Given that sex isn't much of an option (though the young Karol Wojtyla does reject a Polish beauty), …