Friday, March 15, 1991

8 P.M. Sunday and Monday on TNT.

‘Giants’ falls miserably short of capturing artists’ greatness
BYLINE: Phil Kloer Television critic

Before they were Ninja Turtles, Michelangelo, Leonardo and Raphael were known to liberal arts majors as Italian Renaissance artists.

It’s a tough call as to which is more demeaning to their memory-being turned into masked amphibians or being memorialized in this movie, the TV equivalent of garlic breath.

A co-production of TNT and Italian television (mostly Italian television, judging from the credits), “A Season of Giants” plays like an old Steve Reeves Hercules movie, only with the muscles on statues instead of the stars.

Between the stilted dialogue and multi-accented cast (American, British, Italian and indeterminate), it has that awkward feel of a film that’s been poorly dubbed, even though everyone’s lips are in sync.

“Giants” focuses on Michelangelo (Mark Frankel, who was studly Count Orlov in TNT’s “Young Catherine” and looks like the magician David Copperfield in some scenes). It follows him from 1492, when his patron Lorenzo di Medici died, to 1508, when he began to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

Michelangelo is the young turk to Leonardo’s (John Glover) elder statesman: Part 2 (Monday), Raphael (Andrea Prodan) plays the younger turk, stealing Michelangelo’s muse (Ornella Muti).