MOST PEOPLE think Thanksgiving is the time for turkeys. But not in Hollywood, which has been serving them up all summer long. And obviously not in Canada either, which is sending us one for Labor Day. It's called "The Bay Boy," but think of it as John Boy goes to Nova Scotia.
Kiefer Sutherland, son of Donald, has the title role of an impossibly pleasant teenager who grows up during the Depression but doesn't let it get him down. He's the kind of kid who makes the Waltons look like marauding Visigoths.
Liv Ullman, as his long-suffering mother, faces a veritable plague of miseries, reacting with equal distress to family deaths or fallen pies. Peter Donat is pleasant in a secondary role as his cheery but poverty-stricken dad. While the performances aren't strong, it's more the material that's all wrong.
Writer-director Daniel Petrie, who's put enough melodrama into this reminiscence for six screenplays, devises an unwieldy, unworkable psycho-drama about coming of age -- with a little T&A. Sure, the hero deserves a break, considering what he goes through just to lose his virginity: Death, disillusionment -- even murder -- hound this rosy-cheeked altar boy. So many bizarre things happen to this kid -- including a proposition from a gay priest -- that it's absurd.
Finally a double homicide deprives him of his dream girl, Saxon. This flaxen-haired symbol of pure love is played by Leah Pinsent, a real contender in the Glenn-Close-I'm-So- Radiant-I-Don't-Have-To-Act-Just-Foc us-On- Me Award. She just looks into the camera with that beatific smile, clearly a girl who'll never need moisturizer.
Beneath all this misty, covergirl business runs an anti-Semitic undercurrent, which is never clearly addressed. Perhaps Petrie is so close to this partly autobiographical story that he's lost all sense of proportion in his life, apparently a distressing series of dramatically undifferentiated events.