Director: Brian Helgeland
Cast: Heath Ledger, Mark Addy. Rufus Sewell, Paul Bettany, Alan Tudyk
MPAA Rating: PG-13Length: 132 minutes
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Geoffrey Chaucer’s Rolling In His Grave
I remember when Heath Ledger was announced to play the Joker in the Dark Knight, and I remember thinking what a terrible decision that was. In the end, thankfully, I was wrong and Heath Ledger committed the best Joker performance to film. But seeing A Knight’s Tale reminded me why I had dismissed Heath Ledger for the role in the first place.
Terrible would be a complement for this movie. A Knight’s Tale isn’t funny or entertaining. The innovations it tries to introduce don’t set any trends, and if anything, should encourage filmmakers not to try these things in the future.
A knight dies shortly before fighting the final fight of his tournament. His squire William Thatcher (Heath Ledger) takes his place. Accompanied by his friends and fellow squires Wat (Alan Tudyk) and Roland (Mark Addy) assist him, and he wins the tournament. Together they decide to hatch a scheme where they enter William into tournaments to take all the winnings, which comes at great risk to the group since none of them are from noble families.
Along the way they are joined by Geoffrey Chaucer (Paul Bettany) who acts as William’s herald and guide about the customs of nobility. As he progresses through tournaments William wishes to earn the affections of the noblewoman Jocelyn (Shannyn Sossamon) and defeat the evil Count Adhemar (Rufus Sewell) in jousting.
A Knight’s Tale opens with a medieval jousting tournament and the audience stomping and clapping their hands to Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” It only gets worse from there.
Before A Knight’s Tale is finished it’s not only managed to tarnish film, but it decides to bring down literature with it. It’s attempts to be innovative with music that is anachronistic to it’s medieval setting took me out of the movie. Veteran actors look stupid reciting lines that aren’t funny. A forced romantic subplot made me cringe every time it attempted to develop into something romantically believable.
Nothing though, is more horrendous than watching the film add Geoffrey Chaucer as a character. Chaucer is one of the English language’s most important writers. I have no problem with parody, but if you’re going to parody a great name like Chaucer, make it count. Paul Bettany makes a valiant effort, but it’s futile … as Chaucer who is supposed to provide a lot of the comic relief ends up making a mockery of film and literature at the same time. This film needlessly drags this great writer’s name through the mud. The film’s attempts at witty – “look we’re including a famous writer, lets make clever references to his craft and the Canterbury Tales” – comes across as facetious.
The romantic plot between William and Jocelyn creates some of the most terribly crafted scenes in film. The language of seduction fails in its attempts to sound romantic, and the inevitable fights that come with all romantic comedies are so shallow and pointless they have me wondering why even have the fight. At one point, Jocelyn decides to have William prove his love to her by having him get speared with lances in a jousting tournament over and over again. How romantic.
The acting between some of Hollywood’s most established veterans is pulled off well, especially considering all things working against them: bad script, boring plot, and anachronistic music. Heath Ledger does manage to hold his own as William, Mark Addy make the most of his lines with his comedic timing, and Rufus Sewell plays the despicable villain well … like he always does. But the scripts attempt at Shakespearean sounding dialogue, especially the romantic dialogue, are too much for these actors to overcome.
A Knight’s Tale’s attempt at telling a medieval fantasy comes across as a joke. Watching this movie was a waste of time, and if you value yours, then don’t watch this movie.