Mama Flora's Family Review

Adapting Alex Haley's novel as a mini-series, Mama Flora's Family benefits hugely from a cast of solid character actors, including Cicely Tyson, Queen Latifah and Mario Van Peebles. Clearly not a major blip on the TV radar, the DVD of this 1998 mini-series took its time before being released earlier this year.

The DVD is pretty much bare-bones but frankly, I don't think the behind-the-scenes would have been much more than talking heads expounding on Mr. Haley's commitment to family values. Given the kind of content that graces shelves nowadays, it's a pleasant surprise that Family holds together as well as it does. As Flora (Tyson) looks back on a long life marked by equal parts sorrow and joy, she establishes her role as a matriarch and a savior for her children and grandchildren. The acting and production values are TV-grade and the emotions are writ large - still, overbearing it isn't, despite a sizeable running time.

The ladies really do most of the heavy-hitting work in the picture while veteran director Peter Werner does well to remain mostly a specter, guiding things along in a manner I imagine is faithful to Mr. Haley’s novel. Really, what more is there to be said? It’s an affecting tear-jerker if you’re feeling like opening your heart to a story of perseverance. If, one the other hand, you’re feeling cynical, there will be little to like in this small-screen family saga. Mama Flora's Family is hardly thought-provoking stuff but everyone involved seems to be passionate enough about it to genuinely tug on your heartstrings.

"Mama Flora's Family" is on sale January 4, 2011 and is not rated. Children & Family, Drama, Television. Directed by Peter Werner. Written by Alex Haley (book), Carol Schreder and David Stevens (screenplay). Starring Cicely Tyson, Mario Van Peebles, Queen Latifah.

Mark Zhuravsky • Staff Writer

I'm a prolific blogger, writer and editor who loves film.


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