A Spanish nobleman (John Lithgow), having read many tales of chivalry, comes to believe that he is a knight who must combat the world’s injustices. He travels in search of adventure with his squire, Sancho Panza (Bob Hoskins). Quixote’s imagination often runs wild; he sees windmills as giants, country inns as castles, and flocks of sheep as opposing armies. First airs on TNT 4/9/00 at 8:00 p.m. (ET/PT).
“Don Quixote” is the timeless work of Miguel de Cervantes and has been regarded as the first novel ever written. It was published in Spain in two volumes in 1605 and 1615. Most of us are more familiar with the musical version, “Man of La Mancha.” The book, while parodying the chivalric romances of the time, also salutes the addled idealism of a country gentleman who desires to help better the world. But it is far more than that. As the signature song of the musical version states, it is about attaining the impossible dream.
“Don Quixote,” which was executive-produced by its star, is well mounted with a fine cast (especially Mr. Hoskins), beautiful Spanish locations, and a superb background score. Unfortunately, it plods along, failing to capture the wonder of Cervantes’ theme. The teleplay by John Mortimer lacks emotion. His episodic format focuses on the madness of Quixote, but fails to capture his wonder, or any particular moral. In this production, we are simply watching a delusional man who seems to have little effect on others.
Being hailed as a great actor/comedian for his work on TV’s “Third Rock From The Sun,” Mr. Lithgow has a few meaningful moments here, but all too often, the loony, over-the-top nature of his “Rock” character surfaces, leaving us with a self-centered, one dimensional sitcom caricature. Never does he inspire those around him, or the television audience, to recapture a civility Cervantes saw slipping away from society. With the aid of rather cheesy special effects, we glimpse windmills turning into sword-swinging giants, but we never really comprehend the author’s vision.
“Don Quixote” is not bad television. On the contrary, this is a humorous, entertaining adventure that the entire family can view together. However, at 2 ½-hours in length, interrupted by TNT’s countless commercials, it may seem endless. It’s non-objectionable TV fare, but it fails to reach the unreachable star.