Ken Tucker
January 25, 1991 AT 05:00 AM EST

Which Way Home

TV Show
Current Status
In Season
Cybill Shepherd, Ruben Santiago-Hudson

We gave it a D-

Cybill Shepherd may have been looking for a role that would contrast with the witty glamour-puss she played in Moonlighting; if so, Which Way Home may have been more than she bargained for. This relentlessly banal, endless TV movie will leave no viewer in doubt that Shepherd can play a drab, boring character.

It’s 1979 in Cambodia, and here we find nurse Karen Parsons — Shepherd with her face scrubbed raw of makeup, the corners of her mouth turned down to convey a dour seriousness. Shepherd’s Karen is a perspiration-soaked martyr who’s ready to give her life to the sick little Cambodian orphans she oversees in a makeshift refugee hospital. In the opening moments of the movie, a bomb destroys most of the hospital. Scooping up seven of the children, our Karen decides to flee the war-torn country for safety.

Never mind that such impulsiveness makes no sense. (Why only seven? Why leave when she has nowhere to go?) Writer Michael Laurence and director Carl Schultz are too eager to tug at our heartstrings — the movie is full of shots of noble, cute, shamefully exploited orphan faces-to pay any attention to dramatic logic.

Karen and her plucky band, intent on reaching Australia, are picked up by a hard-living Australian charter-boat captain named Steve, played by the craggily handsome John Waters (not to be confused with the epicene film director John Waters; this Waters is an Australian actor who has appeared in the movies The Getting of Wisdom and Breaker Morant). At first, Karen and Steve squabble; then they grow to respect each other. Karen: ”You think I’m pretty tough, don’t you?” Steve: ”No — you’re a fighter.” Karen: ”No — a survivor.” Really, it’s enough to make you join the Khmer Rouge. Finally, it is revealed that these two big lugs are just crazy about each other. By then, it’s too late to care. D-

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