REASON TO WATCH A mother's pain, strength and determination vs. a self-absorbed, vindictive, inscrutable psychopath.
WHAT IT'S ABOUT Cute Alabama blonde Natalee Holloway disappeared on a 2005 high school graduation trip to Aruba, after partying with Dutch playboy Joran Van der Sloot, whose ever-changing recollections would fuel spiraling suspicions of his role in her death. And that -- trumpeted incessantly in cable and magazine tabloids -- led to Lifetime Movie Network's 2009 docudrama "Natalee Holloway," whose viewership surpassed LMN's previous high by a whopping 33 percent.
So "Justice for Natalee Holloway" brings the sensational case up to date. Her dogged mom, Beth, again played by Tracy Pollan, continues her crusade to nail Natalee's killer. By the time she sits face to face with Van der Sloot near movie's end, she sums up what we already know: "You took everything from me. My child. My husband. My job. My whole life."
The 2009 movie served largely as a stranger-danger cautionary tale: Parents, teach your party-hearty daughters that drinking with unfamiliar studs can be deadly, especially in foreign lands where cops don't care. But this 2011 follow-up has perverse split-screen obsessions.
On one side is Beth, still charging at full throttle five years later to compel continued action in her daughter's cold-case disappearance. On the other side -- often literally, on returning director Mikael Salomon's screen -- is Van der Sloot (now Stephen Amell), merrily living his life of infamy and his globe-trotting profession of "I convince girls to do stuff," down to human trafficking.
MY SAY Too bad this telling makes Joran more dramatically intriguing than single-note Beth, with cameras lingering on his twisted eyes as we seek any sort of soul there. Is it "Justice" to give such a despicably bankrupt character oodles of screen time? In Pollan, if 2009's movie is any clue, followers of Natalee's tale will applaud a true mother's fortitude where casual viewers find only aggravation.
Despite Salomon's efforts at visually stylish filmmaking, "Justice for Natalee Holloway" never puts any real meat on the bones of the much-hyped saga -- which now finds Van der Sloot awaiting trial in Peru for killing a young woman reported missing five years to the day after Natalee's disappearance.
BOTTOM LINE The new victim's father speaks with docudrama clarity: "God has chosen my daughter as an instrument for this man to pay for his crime. He is using her so that no other family would ever suffer as we have suffered." Movie contrivance? Or righteous truth? Choose your review.
Reality priority: Missing kids
'Bring a loved one home and bring someone to justice" -- that's the twin goal of the new true-life series "Vanished With Beth Holloway" (premieres tonight at 10 on Lifetime), just as it has been for host Holloway since daughter Natalee's 2005 disappearance.
"I know what it's like to have a child go missing," she says, establishing emotional bona-fides much as John Walsh did in hosting Fox's "America's Most Wanted" after his son's 1981 murder.
In addition to TV's unsolved cases, "Vanished" offers family safety tips and other resources online, at mylifetime.com/shows/vanished-with-beth-holloway.