Don Quixote tilts on TNT

TV: Watch out, windmills! The deluded Spanish knight from La Mancha is after you again on Sunday

Radio and Television

April 05, 2000|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

The story of "Don Quixote," that delusional Spaniard who sees windmills as giants and himself as the last of the noble knights, has delighted audiences for nearly 400 years. Even producer Robert Halmi Sr., whose taste for spectacular gimmickry has drained the life out of more than a few classics, can't stop it.

Beginning at 8 p.m. Sunday, the latest film adaptation of the Cervantes novel debuts on TNT. And while it's hardly the definitive "Don Quixote," it's an entertaining 2 1/2 hours filled with adventures, dreams and lots of pseudo-jousting. (Since Quixote uses a stick, pseudo-jousting is about the best he can do.)

John Lithgow plays Alonso Quixada, an elderly 17th-century Spanish nobleman who, at least in the opinion of his family, has read a few too many books in his time.

"Uncle Alonso," his niece, Antonia, pleads, "You read too much and eat too little." But the protests are for naught. Uncle Alonso is lost in a world that no longer exists, where knights roam the land, performing good deeds, saving fair damsels and upholding a chivalric code that, even by the 17th century, had long ago passed into lore.

So Quixada, after dubbing himself Don Quixote de le Mancha, finds himself an old, rusty suit of armor and sets off for adventure. On his way, he picks up a lackey, the simple-minded but faithful Sancho Panza (Bob Hoskins), and settles on a lady fair whose honor he can defend. That would be Aldonza, a beautiful peasant woman (which is why she's played by Vanessa Williams) whom the crazed Quixote sees as the Lady Dulcinea-- a lady certainly worth slaying giants for.

And so Quixote and Panza wind their way through the Spanish countryside, tilting at windmills (which Quixote mistakes for evil giants), routing a herd of sheep (which he sees as an invading army), raising arms against a hapless dentist (a thieving knight) and seeking to be knighted at a local inn (a castle).

It's all great fun, even if Halmi's production is all surface gloss -- much like Quixote's quest, I suppose. Much has been made of how modern special effects can now help filmmakers really tell this fanciful tale, but the effects here are few (thank goodness!) and largely unimpressive. There's also the curious decision to cast the film almost entirely with British actors -- surely, even in the 17th century, Spaniards rarely used the king's English and spoke with Spanish accents when they did.

At least 15 versions have preceded this latest "Don Quixote," starring everyone from Boris Karloff and Rex Harrison to Peter O'Toole and Lee J. Cobb. Lithgow does just fine in the role -- possibly because he's been playing it for several years on TV. Quixote is just a small step removed from Dick Solomon, the clueless alien Lithgow portrays every week on NBC's "3rd Rock From the Sun." Both men have, at best, a feeble grasp of reality, and both are adept at taking what they see and turning it into what they want to see.

Elmo in a cowboy hat

"Sesame Street" goes a little bit country today.

Faith Hill and Tim McGraw make their debut on the PBS kid's show at 10 a.m. on MPT, Channels 22 and 67, singing a duet about sharing titled "Take a Turn." Seems Faith is looking through a kaleidoscope, and hubby Tim wants his turn.

Eventually, our crooning couple is joined by "Sesame Street" regulars Elmo, Herry Monster, Cookie Monster, Telly Monster and Lulu -- all decked out in cowboy hats and western garb.

Healthy discovery

Comcast subscribers in Anne Arundel County, take note: The cable provider has added Discovery Health Channel to its roster, replacing Knowledge TV on Channel 95. A 24-hour operation, the Discovery Health Channel features documentaries and other shows related to health topics.

Comcast subscribers in Charles County can find the Discovery Health Channel on Channel 10.

Schools, sports on Steiner

Joseph Hairston, the new superintendent of schools for Baltimore County, is the scheduled guest for the first half of Friday's edition of "The Marc Steiner Show." On Tuesday, Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski is slated to talk sports with Keith Mills of WMAR, Channel 2, and Milton Kent of The Sun during the show's first hour. "The Marc Steiner Show" airs from noon to 2 p.m. weekdays on WJHU-FM (88.1).

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