Picks and Pans Review: A Man for All Seasons

updated 12/12/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/12/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

TNT (Wed., Dec. 7, 8 p.m. ET)

D+

Ted Turner can't keep his hands off the classics. He buys Gone with the Wind. He colorizes Casablanca. Now he remakes A Man for All Seasons. If he had to mangle this movie, I wish he had done something less drastic. He could have de-colorized it. But no, he remakes it with Charlton Heston not only starring but also directing. Oh, the pain. The original A Man for All Seasons—which told the story of Sir Thomas More's refusal to support King Henry VIII in his split with the Catholic Church—was just about the perfect movie. It won six 1966 Oscars, including best picture, best actor (Paul Scofield) and best director (Fred Zinnemann). It was beautifully filmed and acted. Most important, it stood for something. Somebody else said this first, but I agree: Whenever I fight for what's right, I want to believe that I am Sir Thomas More, losing my head for justice. The truth is, I probably more resemble the Man of La Mancha but I want to be A Man for All Seasons; we all do. So this is more than a movie. It is a battle flag for good guys everywhere. But now it has been turned into just another mediocre TV show. Heston directs with all the finesse of a film-school documentary maker, robbing almost every scene and line of its drama and thus its meaning. His acting is almost as clumsy: He makes More stiff and smug, as if he were Richard Nixon in velvet. Vanessa Red grave makes More's wife hyper and inane, as if she were Edith Bunker. Most of the supporting actors (except Roy Kin near as the common man) play their parts as if they were MBAs at lunch. So a great film is ruined. But: While I blast and belittle this first original movie on Turner's new cable network, I still applaud his motives. Clearly he wants to fill his channel with classy, intelligent, worthwhile shows. He simply makes the understandable (though unforgivable) mistake of taking a classy, intelligent, worthwhile film and thinking that he or Heston could improve on it. No, Ted, no. TNT is new. It took a few years before HBO started making provocative cable originals like Tanner '88 and A Dangerous Life. So we also should give Ted and his network a few years. But that doesn't mean we have to give them the three hours it takes to watch this video sin.

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