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If there is an underlying message in the ABC movie, "Inside the Osmonds" (8 tonight, Channel 7) it is "critics be damned." When this Utah family pop group of the 1970s received bad reviews for its concerts, Papa Osmond (Bruce McGill) read them aloud, said the fans spoke louder than the reviewers and then threw the newspapers into the trash can.

Needless to say, reviews of this saccharine movie will end up in the trash, too.

The film was made with the approval of all the Osmonds (brother Jimmy is an executive producer), which pretty much explains why there aren't any startling revelations.

Over the two hours, we learn that the older brothers were jealous of Donny's success, that Donny played a mean prank on sister Marie during their TV variety show, and that the family fortune of $80 million was wasted on a foolish decision to create a studio in their native Utah.

And, oh, yeah, older brothers Wayne and Merrill really wanted to be and thought they could become the next Led Zeppelin.

That tidbit is revealed in a classic line near the end of the film. It is spoken seriously, without any hint of satire.

The dialogue in the film is so insipid that viewers may long for the fake Osmonds to sing 20 of their hardly memorable, yet wholesome, songs.

Their Mormon father wouldn't have had it any other way. He was the group's censor, making sure that they didn't sing any scandalous lyrics. Heck, he even had to be convinced that the phrase "sock it to you" wasn't inappropriate.

Dad apparently had such a strong hold on his kids that they wouldn't dare break any of his rules and they certainly wouldn't give in to any lustful groupies who came to their door.

To give the film some historical context, real-life footage of the 1960s and '70s is interspersed, including shots of Muhammad Ali, Dr. Martin Luther King and Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon (who had no trouble saying "sock it to me" on "Laugh-In").

And at the end, we get to see the cast of the movie introduce the real-life Osmonds for a rendition of "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother."

I must admit it was the only moment in the two hours that I found moving, even though I knew I was being manipulated.

Of course, the networks have been riding a music nostalgia craze for years during sweeps periods, making films on the real lives of "The Brady Bunch," "The Partridge Family" and "The Monkees."

The previous renditions all were smart enough to poke fun at themselves. The Osmonds, on the other hand, take themselves so seriously that you almost think they want critics to sock it to them again.

Rating: 1 star out of 4

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