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APRIL 24, 2000: 

RETURN TO ME. I loved the short-lived sitcom The Bonnie Hunt Show, which years ago was written by and starred the flaxen-haired Second City comedienne as an intrepid TV interviewer. It was charming, witty, good-natured and believable, and I was apparently the only person in the country besides producer David Letterman who watched it. Return to Me, co-written and directed by Hunt and set in her old stomping grounds of Chi-town, brings that gift of good character to the screen with a star-studded cast: David Duchovny, Minnie Driver, David Alan Grier, James Belushi, Hunt herself and Carroll O'Connor (who, far from his Archie Bunker persona, plays a grandfather who sounds like an Irish Winnie-the-Pooh). Unlike your typical romantic comedy about obsession and low self-esteem, this love story is saturated with sweet relationships. It's as if the writers were assigned a list of all things universally heartwarming -- big dogs, little kids, Italian restaurants, wisecracking old men, great apes that speak sign-language, a life-saving heart-transplant, etc. etc. -- and told to spin a story out of them. In lesser hands, it would be a ghastly mess, but the writing sparkles and the chemistry hums like a Sinatra tune in spring. You'd need a heart full of vipers and mustard gas to resist its feel-good vibe. -- Mari Wadsworth

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