A Knight's Tale

Within the first couple of minutes of A Knight's Tale, the jousting begins with the crowd clapping their hands in rhythm to Queen's We Will Rock You. This is one of a couple misguided attempts to modernize knights, making them more palatable to today's fickle, young moviegoers. The rock music itself is not what is strange, it is the combination of rock and an orchestral score (a good one at that by underappreciated and prolific composer Carter Burwell, Before Night Falls, O Brother, Where Art Thou?). The former gives the movie a nice sense of energy. The latter gives it a sense of credibility. Mixing the two just makes the rock music seem very out of place, even with the modern attitudes and some modern-looking dress. Writer/director Brian Hegeland (Payback, LA Confidential) would do better to stick with one or the other. The rock music just appears randomly and inspires more laughter than anything else.

A Knight's Tale is a reverse Cinderella tale that is still an amusing ride. William Thatcher (Heath Ledger, The Patriot, 10 Things I Hate About You) wants to be a knight, but is not of noble birth. He is, and ever will be a squire, until his master dies. At the last minute, he puts on the armor and enters a tournament. The rush of adrenaline and lure of riches is too much for him to resist, and he continues his masquerade as Sir Ulric von Leichtenstein, slowly working his way to the top of the tournament. The only people that share his secret are Rolan (Mark Addy, Down to Earth, The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas), Wat (Alan Tudyk, 28 Days, Wonder Boys), a female blacksmith (Laura Fraser, Titus, Left Luggage), and Geoff Chaucer (Paul Bettany, Bent, The Land Girls). Yes, Geoff Chaucer as in Geoffrey Chaucer, author of The Canterbury Tales, which does include a Knight's Tale, but does not really resemble the movie. Chaucer is William's herald and warms up the crowds before tournaments. Sadly, this movie aims itself towards a younger crowd, so this reference will fly far over their heads.

Of course this cannot be a Cinderella story without a beautiful princess. Jocelyn (Shannyn Sossamon) immediately catches the eye of William. She is interested in him because he does not throw himself at her like other knights. He has honor, unlike most of the other knights. And hey, he's Heath Ledger, so he's cute. William's chief adversary, on the field of battle and of love, is Count Adhemar (Rufus Sewell, Bless the Child, Illuminata). Adhemar is the best there is, and William wants nothing more than to knock him off his horse during a joust. Sewell makes a great villain. He has a smooth voice a smug look that screams haughtiness. Too bad he never really does anything else in this movie.

Instead of following William through one tournament, Hegeland opts for a grander scale, and tracks William's slow ascent. This makes the movie clock in at over two hours. Either way, A Knight's Tale treads familiar territory, in both its romance and its 'sports.' The jousting is the only element that makes this movie unique. Hegeland films the jousts from a variety of angles, moving the camera quickly and showing close-up the lances crashing against the armor of the competitors. Whenever there is no mano a mano combat, things slow down considerably. Thatcher is not that interesting of a character to hold interest for the length of the movie. He is able and determined, but also stubborn and impulsive. All can be good qualities for a knight, but in his romance with Jocelyn (who dresses and has various hairdos like a runway model) holds no real chemistry. William and Jocelyn also are the only two people with very modern sensibilities. Both want to marry for love and do not care about social status. It's a familiar device in movies like this, and never fully works. In the end, A Knight's Tale is merely brainless summer fun.

Haro Rates It: Okay.
2 hours, 20 Minutes, Rated PG-13 for action violence, some nudity, and brief sex-related dialogue.

Back to Movies