In Turner Network Television's humorous and touching
retelling of the classic Don Quixote, both John Lithgow and Bob Hoskins deliver
perhaps their finest performances.
This production, with Lithgow and Robert Halmi Sr. as
executive producers and Peter Yates as director, also is the latest proof that Halmi
should stick with classic novels and stay away from dreck like NBC's miniseries The
Tenth Kingdom. Halmi's Hallmark Entertainment has cranked out at least 10 movies or
miniseries in just the last three years, only a few of which were worthwhile.
Screenwriter John Mortimer has taken great pains to go back
to Miguel de Cervantes' original Spanish version of the novel, thus injecting more humor
into this project than can be found in previous efforts.
Lithgow, the driving force behind this remake, fortunately
steers clear of his over-the-top 3rd Rock from the Sun sitcom persona.
In this version of Don Quixote -- set in the 19th
century rather than the usual 16th or 17th -- Alonso Quixada has
become so enthralled with books about knighthood and chivalry that he imagines himself to
be Don Quixote, a knight in search of adventures with his sidekick Sancho Panza. Bored
with reality, Quixote observes at one point, "Where is the glory of adventure?"
Even when a jaded duke and duchess (the latter played by
Isabella Rossellini) mock his quest for their own amusement, Quixote is unaware and
But when Quixote's concerned niece Antonia and friends burn
his books and eventually put an end to his journeys, their success proves bittersweet.
Lithgow and Hoskins are the movie's anchors. The latter
starts out driven by dreams of riches -- "How much does honor pay by the hour?"
he asks -- but ultimately is driven by friendship. Hoskins' most moving moments come
toward the end.
At first, it's annoying to hear supposed Spaniards like
Sancho and Antonia (Amelia Warner) speak with British accents, but their acting overcomes
that hurdle. Warner, Rossellini and Vanessa Williams, in the dual role of Dulcinea and
Aldonza, make the most of their relatively little screen time.
The fact that the production was filmed entirely in Spain
and the use of special effects that enable the viewer to see the world through Quixote's
eyes definitely help the look of the production. The viewer sees what Quixote thinks he
sees when windmills morph into giants and a flock of sheep turn into an army.
TNT's Don Quixote will bow April 9 at 8 p.m., with
seven repeats throughout the month.