Another lavishly produced, all-star, TV-movie emasculation of great literature from the creators of the even more bloated GULLIVER'S TRAVELS (1996), THE ODYSSEY is a thoroughly sanitized version of Homer's classic.
Soon after the birth of his son Telemachus (Alan Stenson), Ithaca's King Odysseus (Armand Assante) leaves his wife Penelope (Greta Scacchi) and mother Anticleia (Irene Pappas) to join a losing war against the Trojans. Prodded into action by the goddess Athena (Isabella Rossellini), Odysseus
resolves to end the 10-year impasse by duping his enemy with a large wooden horse from which his troops can storm the city, once inside the gates. His plan succeeds, but boastful Odysseus fails to give sufficient thanks to the god Poseidon for his help. Poseidon punishes this hubris by forcing
Odysseus to roam the seas, unable to return home. Back in Ithaca, other suitors pressure Penelope to give up her vigil for her husband.
Following an adventure in which Odysseus blinds a Cyclops planning to eat his men, the god Aeolus (Michael J. Pollard) helpfully seals up Poseidon's ill winds in a bag. Assuming the bag contains gold, Odysseus' greedy sailors open it, unleashing gusts which propel them to the isle of Circe
(Bernadette Peters). Although this temptress transforms Odysseus' men into animals, Odysseus breaks her spell and lingers five years in her seductive company. After visiting the prophet Tiresias (Christopher Lee) in Hades, Odysseus and his crew must brave the gaping jaws of the monsters Scylla and
Charybdis. Sole survivor Odysseus then becomes the lover of Calypso (Vanessa Williams). With the help of Athena, Odysseus finally returns home in disguise. With the cooperation of Telemachus (with whom he's reunited), Odysseus tricks Penelope's suitors into a contest of archery skill. Vanquishing
the lay-abouts, Odysseus resumes his reign as King of Ithaca.
Sumptuously photographed but simple-minded, THE ODYSSEY plays like a "Classics Ilustrated" adaptation of the original work. All the Homerian set-pieces are trotted out, but there isn't one truly suspenseful sequence or emotionally riveting moment in the whole exercise. Alternately rambunctious and
sententious, the film boasts only one satisfying cinematic segment: the climactic entrapment and destruction of Penelope's suitors. Otherwise, it completely lacks a sense of the beauty of Homer's language and storytelling. There are superior special effects and enough plot incidents to stoke a
dozen adventure movies, but what good is an epic without epic vision? Contributing to the unwieldy feel of the project is an international cast that sports numerous accents but only two histrionic styles: those playing mortals take their cue from pompous ham Assante, intoning their dialogue in
cultured cadences, while the gods are played like grinning, sexed-up Greek gremlins suffering from bouts of eyebrow arching. (Violence, adult situations.)
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- Released: 1997
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: Another lavishly produced, all-star, TV-movie emasculation of great literature from the creators of the even more bloated GULLIVER'S TRAVELS (1996), THE ODYSSEY is a thoroughly sanitized version of Homer's classic. Soon after the birth of his son Telemach… (more)