A eulogy seems like a difficult chore
For newspaper writer Mitch Albom, who’s sore
Toward any religion; this eulogy’s for
His childhood rabbi named Al.
The rabbi is friendly and kind all along
And often breaks out into jubilant song,
His sermons make his congregation feel strong,
And Mitch grows to be a close pal.
Although he had feared Albert Lewis when young,
Mitch quickly is charmed by his clever old tongue
And the warmhearted ways that his greetings are sung
And shares many visits for years.
Meanwhile, in Detroit, Albom happens to meet
A black pastor helping those out on the street.
Though his shabby church has no light and no heat,
His whole congregation still cheers.
But this Henry Covington has had a past;
He once was a drug dealer, living life fast.
All his offenses leave Albom aghast,
Yet here Henry is, a changed man.
When he was most desperate, oppressed by mistakes,
God helped him survive, Henry setting the stakes.
He then made a promise that he never breaks,
To serve God as long as he can.
A hole in the roof causes Henry much stress,
And Mitch wants to help but is nervous, I guess,
That Henry might be tempted still and regress,
But Henry proves he is reformed.
Mitch then puts the word out for charity aid,
And soon Henry’s church is quite nearly remade.
The roof hole is fixed, and the bills are all paid;
The building’s now well-lit and warmed.
Eight years after Albert, the teacher most wise,
Asked distant Mitch Albom to please eulogize,
The ninety-year-old singing rabbi then dies,
Having strengthened the uncertain Mitch.
And Henry as well, having won much affection,
Whose life was recycled by God’s wise direction,
Went home to the Lord till the next resurrection,
A soul God employed to enrich.
Following up the Hallmark-like The Ultimate Gift, here’s a real Hallmark Hall of Fame movie based on Mitch Albom’s book, which featured real-life conversations with his old rabbi and a Protestant pastor. As inspiring as it is faith-building, the film proves how powerful television movies can be. As the film goes back and forth between the homespun Jewish wisdom of Rabbi Lewis and the touching salvation story of Pastor Henry Covington, the audience gets to know them as characters just as Mitch Albom did, gradually.
Martin Landau is especially convincing and likable as the elderly rabbi, and Laurence Fishburne is also excellent as Henry, portraying him in both his free-wheeling, drug-ridden days and his devoted, repentant later life. Even though the film got no nominations, I thought both of them deserved an Emmy for their performances. Bradley Whitford is all right as Mitch, although his dense misunderstanding of religion borders on frustrating at times. I know he’s a non-practicing Jew, but even most non-believers can agree on someone’s ability to change their own life.
I think Have a Little Faith is an overlooked gem that deserves its Hallmark Hall of Fame status. It’s realistic yet restrained, instructional yet not preachy, dramatic and sweet yet not overly so. It’s a portrait of two men worth admiring, the kind of quality television most channels have ceased making.
Best line: (Mitch, to Rabbi Lewis) “Do you believe in God?” (Rabbi) “Yes. Occupational hazard.”
Visual Effects: N/A
TOTAL: 43 out of 60
Next: #182 – Funny Girl
© 2014 S. G. Liput
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