The Perfect Tribute

Abraham Lincoln (Jason Robards) is depressed; in the thick of the Civil War, the President doubts that he is leading the country toward peace. Meanwhile, a young boy (Witness’ Lukas Haas) is fearful; he has run away from home in Atlanta, determined to find his older brother (Campbell Scott of The Kennedys of Massachusetts), a wounded Confederate captain lying in a Union hospital in Washington. In The Perfect Tribute, the fact-based President and the fictional boy meet and console each other. Robards is relaxed and chatty — despite the fact that the actor is encased in so much makeup that he’s unrecognizable, his Lincoln is a charmer. Haas is also terrific — wide-eyed and earnest, his Ben Blair is never cutesy.

But The Perfect Tribute, based on the novel of the same name by Mary Raymond Shipman Andrews, is hopelessly contrived, reducing Lincoln and Ben to symbols — Wisdom and Innocence, respectively. Everyone makes speeches and declarations in this TV movie (”I’ve come this far; I’m not stoppin’ now!” Ben yells), and all of them are trite. Except, that is, for Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, which is always worth hearing again.

The Perfect Tribute
  • TV Show