Don’t be surprised if this earnest tearjerker doesn’t score higher ratings than Twin Peaks. Crossing to Freedom stars Peter O’Toole as a cranky old Englishman leading a group of adorable urchins out of France during World War II. With O’Toole in good form, seven cute kids, plus Mare Winningham suffering nobly as a French peasant, how could this not grab a big audience?
Based on a novel by the skilled sentimentalist Nevil Shute, Crossing to Freedom is like The Sound of Music without music.
The children — little French scamps whose parents beg O’Toole to take them to the safety of England, since he’s going home anyway — melt the hearts of everyone they meet, and they bring an odd couple together.
The couple is O’Toole, looking trim and giving his lines a nice, crisp spin, and Winningham, who begins a bedtime story for the children like this: ”Ah weel tell you a stor-ee, eh? Once zair waz an el-e-phant, eh? ”
Winningham was so good last month in Love and Lies that it’s easy to forgive her for accepting this script, and it’s great to see O’Toole so lively. If only these fine actors had been given something to do besides act out this tale of hoked-up heroism. C-