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TV Movie Review: 'Million Dollar Babies'

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Like the five wee infants themselves, MILLION DOLLAR BABIES (CBS, Nov. 20 and 22, 9-11 p.m. each night) struggles mightily and overcomes the odds. This is an absorbing four-hour TV movie about the famous Dionne quintuplets that succeeds in spite of itself, by which I mean the casting of the hammy Beau Bridges in a central role that calls for him to be even hammier than usual. He plays Dr. Dafoe, who delivered the quints in the backwoods of Ontario, Canada, in 1934. Bridges portrays Dafoe as a blustery opportunist who takes advantage of the impoverished, poorly educated Dionne parents (Roy Dupuis and Celine Bonnier), secures legal custody of the five children, and proceeds to make a pile selling their story. Million Dollar Babies, a Canadian-American coproduction, focuses on the commercial exploitation of the quints, most prominently by the fictional Helena Reid, a radio-show host who turns the tale of the Dionnes into a soap opera that, however briefly, serves to distract North America from the woes of the Depression. As played by Kate Nelligan, Reid is a spellbinding huckster. B+