Worth A Look: 26.42%
Pretty Bad: 5.7%
Total Crap: 17.1%
8 reviews, 145 user ratings
|Knight's Tale, A
by Erik Childress
The Knight’s Code, if there ever was, has been irreparably damaged by the world of cinema in 2001. Once Upon a Time we were treated to the legends of King Arthur & Beowulf. Films like Excalibur and Ladyhawke once graced us with stories of nobility, heroism and excitement. What do we get this year? Just Visiting, the tale of a knight who time travels into the future to litter and fart, and now, A Knight’s Tale which could possibly rank as one of the most embarrassing, inept, miscast, poorly directed, shamefully written pieces of shite to ever hit movie theaters.How else can you describe a film set in the 18th century that plays Queen’s “We Will Rock You” over the opening credits while a festival crowd keeps the 1-2-clap rhythm? Calm down, Erik, maybe it’s a satirical tale on knight tales (like A Princess Bride), so let’s give it a chance. After all there’s supposed to be some really cool jousting. OK. OK. Where were we?
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There are these squires whose knight master has just died in the middle of a tournament that he was winning. Poor bastard. These squires are hungry and want peppermint cream so young William Thatcher (Heath Ledger) assumes his identity and completes the clean sweep. (Thank God the crowd didn’t pull brooms out.) But wait, he’s not of noble birth. It should be a forfeit. But William must have seen Gladiator and wisely keeps his helmet on when asked to remove it. It’s then off on the touring circuit with William and squires, the portly Roland (Mark Addy) & short-tempered Wat (Alan Tudyk).
Along the road they encounter a frightenly naked traveler who happens to call himself Geoffrey Chaucer. OK, so maybe this is a kind of Forrest Gump/O Brother Where Art Thou where our heroes encounter real-life figures from history along their journey to self-discovery. After all, Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales, which begins with a story entitled “The Knight’s Tale.” Still, it’s a pretty obscure reference for a film that targets its audience by playing Bachman Turner Overdrive during the training sequence. Apparently you’re destined for a top seed in the bracket if you listen to “Taking Care of Business” and put a pole in a hole enough times. Wilt Chamberlain probably would have made one helluva jouster.
OK, so let’s get to that jousting. With only a single round under his belt and a touch of hole piercing, William is kicking tail all over the place. And there’s a reason that William is able to knock off knights one-by-one over and over again. IT’S ALWAYS THE SAME FOOTAGE!!! At least it certainly appears that way. You’ve got two knights, two horses and two giant sticks, each on separate ends of the fence. Cut to one knight. Cut to the other. One takes off, then the other charges. Zoom in. Pan out. Big stick hits knight’s chest or faceplate creating an explosion of wood not seen since the days of John Holmes. That’s it.
Over and over we see this in montages and confrontations that offer no surprises except the exorbitant freshness of a different angle. I imagine the behind-the-scenes featurette on the DVD will include a segment where 25 different cameras are set up to capture the one big jousting scene they’re going to film and use 50 different times. A two-year old with poor depth perception and no film school training wouldn’t even need a shot list to edit these sequences. I just hope the two-year old who edited this film won’t have any problems getting accepted for pre-school, cause I’d hate to be robbed of years of such monotony.
So, the jousting scenes clearly suck. Thus we are robbed of the one thing that might distract us from the mediocre acting, rock soundtrack and all-over-the-map plot. I’d rather see a film version of the video game Joust. Let’s see some knights get impaled and explode when touched by the ass of a flying bird. How about that? A Knight’s Tale can provide nothing more than the bird droppings and a lobotomy.
Make no mistake about it; this film is going to end careers. Heath Ledger, who has been on the flavor of the month’s 10 most wanted list for over two years now, could just as well be playing Mel Gibson’s son again (from last year’s The Patriot), without Mel, a script or a point to work with. He better find one quick otherwise he’ll continue to be “the flavor”, but in a shoppe that serves only Chocolate and Vanilla.
Speaking of new additions to the flavor list that guys will want to lick, Shannyn Sossamon (discovered DJ’ing at a party by Gwyneth Paltrow – what a qualification for talent) plays Heath’s rent-a-princess love interest with all the depth of a supermodel unaware that she’s on downers. She’s nice to look at, but so is a bacon double burger if you’re hungry. Shannyn and Heath’s entendre-infested conversation about a “flower” has to be heard to be believed.
The only actor who resembles what this material should be offering is poor Rufus Sewell. Just watch the look on his face when a classical ballroom dance (which starts out like the dance in Top Secret) turns into a shuffle to the tune of David Bowie’s “Golden Years”. Like him, you are just waiting for Allen Funt, Dick Clark and Ed McMahon to come out from behind the curtain and admit that this is crueler than any practical joke they ever enacted.
Guiding us through this round table of insanity is writer/producer/director Brian Helgeland whose previous feature was the great Mel Gibson crime flick, Payback, and who just a few years ago was picking up an Oscar for his adaptation of L.A. Confidential. What the hell was he thinking? Who gave him the money? Was this an elaborate scheme worthy of Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder? How much cash did he pocket on the front end because despite all the sets and costumes, this film still looks like it cost as much as a small slurpee minus the tax.
If you’re making a satire and winking to the audience, then you better be damn sure that you wink. For God’s sake, give me a nervous twitch, something. You can’t just switch from “The Boys Are Back In Town” to a tearful over-the-top reunion with William’s blind father. Your tone has to be consistent and I’m not just referring to the use of rock songs, but while we’re at it. It’s one thing to play post-dated song OVER the action of a historical timeline, it’s another to have the characters act to it.
Shanghai Noon used ZZ Top’s “Tush” during a barfight. Animated films like A Bug’s Life and the upcoming Shrek whose transcendence over time and place is more flexible when characters sing Monkee’s tunes or use “Teenage Wasteland” to promote it. Even Richard Donner’s Ladyhawke managed to survive a modern 80s score by the Alan Parsons Project and still seem magical. When I see Knights, Kings and battles, I want to hear a lush, sweeping, overly melodramatic score the likes of Williams, Goldsmith, Horner or Jarre. I want horns, drums and violins. Christ, I’d take a theremin over what we have to contend with in this throwback to a time when MTV actually played videos. Bring back Alan Parsons!
Which begs the question, just who is this film intended to be marketed to? The casting of Ledger tips the scale to teenage girls and their dates hoping to see some good action. (Tip for the guys – Make her pay!) The soundtrack also suggests the younger demographic…from about 15 years ago. The likes of Freddie Mercury, AC/DC & BTO are now known primarily on the classics station (my God has it been that long) by the readers of Young Miss. So is this a tip of the hat to Gen-X or Gen-not-quite-sure-Y? This is the music we used to listen to at arcades and travelling carnivals. We remember the year of 1981 when we were the enthused recipients of Dragonslayer, Excalibur and Clash of the Titans. Twenty years later, A Knight’s Tale is like going to a high school reunion where all your classmates are either retarded or dead.
Blurring the lines of the space-time continuum isn’t a groundbreaking conception. Julie Taymor’s overlooked 1999 production of Titus took a Shakespearean setting and added automobiles, Nazi-like politics and action figures to create a riveting piece of storytelling that shook up old conventions while still remaining true to the spirit and story. A Knight’s Tale is like Titus for titheads (something I wrote down even before I noticed Laura Fraser’s name in the credits, who played Titus’ daughter). I was continually reminded of Mel Brooks’ Governor in Blazing Saddles telling Harvey “Hedley Lamarr” Korman, “What the hell are you worried about? This is 1874. You'll be able to sue her!”Its unsuccessful “experiment” comes off more like marketing pandering and has all the freshness of a used feminine hygiene product. No film trying to skewer this subject matter is going to run 132 minutes, which when you take away the “behind-the-music”, Nike symbols on the armor, the wave and witty modern dialogue like “YES” and “Helllooooo”, all you’re left with is some poorly-staged action, lame characters badly acted, and shoddy drama not worthy of a very special episode of Saved By the Bell. A Knight’s Tale is a boil on the festering malignant state of the cinema and it should be lanced immediately.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=4627&reviewer=198
originally posted: 05/08/01 05:42:56