JANUARY 13 2008 22:33h
Kilmer travels far over the top to a place of irredeemable arrogance. He`s pretty much all over the map in his performance.
It's considered by many to be the finest miniseries of all time, though it managed to lose the Emmy that year to "War and Remembrance." No matter. It's a classic. So when you invoke the "Dove" name, you'd better be prepared to pale by comparison -- even if you're Larry McMurtry, the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel on which the miniseries was based.
For "Comanche Moon," his "Dove" prequel, McMurtry joined forces with "Brokeback Mountain" partner Diana Ossana (who together won Oscars for that screenplay) to adapt the novel into this six-hour horse opera that's blessed with some powerful scenes but too much lightweight patter. It isn't worth three nights of anyone's life, even if it carves a collection of memorable moments into the mix.
Steve Zahn steps in for Robert Duvall as the hard-drinking and emotional Gus McCrae, and Karl Urban subs for Tommy Lee Jones as the hard-driving Woodrow F. Call. They don't come close to matching their predecessors. As Gus, Zahn is alternately pining and crazy; as a sullen Call, Urban reminds us of an expressionless statue. Their chemistry together is scarcely evident.
"Moon" catches up with our heroes as semi-young Texas Rangers when they join up with Captain Inish Scull (Val Kilmer), a Yankee aristocrat and hero of the recently concluded Mexican War, as they hunt across a pre-Civil War Texas for a Comanche chief (Wes Studi), a horse thief (Adam Beach) and a Mexican outlaw (Sal Lopez). The quest stretches across all three nights of the mini, moving in a linear fashion that nonetheless takes too many side journeys to supply color. Those departures have the unfortunate effect of detracting from the dramatic impact of the narrative, which in the McMurtry-Ossana teleplay is in truth less a cohesive story than a series of snippets that give us insight into prairie life during a warring time in the Old West.
Kilmer travels far over the top to a place of irredeemable arrogance. He's pretty much all over the map in his performance. But at the same time, he's quite the hoot, playing this more for laughs than credibility. Zahn and Urban are bickering and largely unlikable. The ladies tend to fare better, having the more intriguing characters: Rachel Griffiths as a gloriously over-the-top, ballbusting vixen (and Kilmer's wife); Elizabeth Banks ("Scrubs") as Maggie, the young prostitute with a heart of gold and Woodrow's gal; and Clara (Linda Cardellini of "ER"), a smarty-pants, saucy dame who leads Gus around by the nose.
Inish Scull: Val Kilmer
Inez: Rachel Griffiths
Gus McCrae: Steve Zahn
Woodrow F. Call: Karl Urban
Clara: Linda Cardellini
Maggie: Elizabeth Banks
Jake Spoon: Ryan Merriman
Long Bill Coleman: Raymond McKinnon
Deets: Keith Robinson
Buffalo Hump: Wes Studi
Blue Duck: Adam Beach
Governor Pease: James Rebhorn
Tudwal: Jake Busey
Pearl: Melanie Lynskey
Ahumado: Sal Lopez
First Old Comanche: Floyd Westerman
Elmira Forsythe: Kristine Sutherland
Pea Eye Parker: Troy Baker
Executive producers: Diana Ossana, Larry McMurtry, Paul Frank, Adam Shulman, Julie Yorn; Producer: Dyson Lovell; Co-producers: Karen Mayeda-Vranek, Mary Church, Larry Rapaport; Teleplay: Diana Ossana, Larry McMurtry; Based on the novel by: Larry McMurtry; Director: Simon Wincer; Director of photography: Alan Caso; Production designer: Paul J. Peters; Costume designer: Van Broughton Ramsey; Editor: Terry Blythe; Music: Lennie Niehaus; Sound mixer: Darryl L. Frank; Casting: Lynn Kressel.