Movie Review: ‘The True Don Quixote’

Review by James Lindorf

Over four hundred years in the making, The True Don Quixote updates Cervantes’ classic tale to modern times and trades the Spanish provinces for the wilds of Louisiana. Isolated and aimless, Danny Kehoe (Tim Blake Nelson) retreats into his favorite stories of valiant knights, beautiful maidens and epic quests. After suffering a psychotic break, Danny believes that he is a knight destined to change the world around him and win the hearts of the people. Donning a suit of armor made from household materials, Danny grabs his sword and sets off in the pursuit of glory. Danny is aided in his quest by his loyal squire Sancho, Spider-Man Far From Home’s Jacob Batalon. The journey of The True Don Quixote begins on October 1st on VOD.

Cervantes’ lasting work is one of the most translated books in the world and is often considered the first modern novel. It has inspired plays, operas, musicals, ballets, television shows and films for hundreds of years. It garners so much admiration that Terry Gilliam (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) famously spent three-decades trying to produce his version of the tale. Chris Poche (Over the Hedge), who wrote and directed the film, should be commended for his desire to adapt the revered story on an independent scale. Poche was able to capture the comedy, tragedy, and humanity that embodies Don Quixote.

The True Don Quixote’s story could have quickly devolved into scene-chewing nonsense, making the casting of Tim Blake Nelson (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs) the best thing to happen to the film. He was the perfect choice, easily balancing the sincerity and absurdity of a knight in rural Louisiana. Jacob Batalon is good as Sancho, but is entirely overshadowed by Nelson. Perhaps the film’s second-best performance is Roy Blount Jr.’s expertly crooned narration, which puts viewers at ease, as if they are sitting down to hear a story from a trusted friend.

Poché deserves credit for cleverly tweaking certain elements, like changing Don Quixote’s noble steed, Rocinante, into a faded orange scooter dubbed “Rosacea.” The True Don Quixote is an impressive display of filmmaking, from direction to cinematography to acting, but the story suffers from a lack of peaks and valleys that typically keep viewers enthralled. Danny navigates from one equally whacky encounter to the next, in true “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” fashion, until credits roll. The audience satisfaction is reliant on how entertained they are by the film’s humor and performances, which may be a little too niche for the film to receive widespread acclaim.

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