A Knight’s Tale
Reviewed by: Douglas Downs
Teen to Adult
Year of Release:
If you were disappointed by “The Mummy Returns,” take heart. “A Knight’s Tale” has all the charm, campy-style, and action of a great summer hit. Writer/Director Brian Helgeland, receiving wide acclaim for “L.A. Confidential” and the less-stellar “Payback,” has written another tremendous screen adaptation. The story is not original or thought provoking, but it is a wonderful crafting of the 14th century ideas of Geoffrey Chaucer, “The Knight’s Tale.” I am not sure the film will inspire anyone to read The Canterbury tales, but those who have will appreciate this film even more.
A knyght ther was, and that a worthy man,
“A Knight’s Tale” centers on William Thatcher (played by the popular Australian actor Heath Ledger) who eventually assumes the false identity of Ulrich von Lichtenstein. His friends Roland (Mark Addy) and Wat (Alan Tudyk) dream only of full stomachs and wine, William longs for more in life. The story opens with the three of them in a bit of a predicament. They are Squires to Sir Ector, a noble and a knight; you have to be of noble blood to be a knight. They are at a jousting competition and Sir Ector apparently suffered a deadly blow. This event awakens William childhood desire to be a knight. The film has some wonderful flashbacks to underscore this part of the plot. This technique is done extremely well and his better than just Thatcher retelling his story. The flashback is a scene where William asks his father if he can grow up to be a knight. An eavesdropping friend tries to discourage the boy saying, “The son of a Thatcher? A knight? You might as well try to change the stars.” William asks his father again, “can a man changes his stars?” His father replies, “a man can do anything.” There is an emotional connection with his dad that is uplifting.
“A Knight’s Tale” is a quirky blend of a “football” movie, a love story, and a man in pursuit of his dream. After some training William and his pals are off to compete. Along the way, about the time they are trying to come up with an identity for William, they run into a wacky scribe named Chaucer (Paul Bettany) who just happens to have experience and knowledge of certification, or whatever it’s called. Chaucer can make William an official pass that will get him into contests, and also help him appear to be legally Ulrich von Lichtenstein, knight and nobleman. William turns out to be pretty good at fighting and wins many matches. With some skillful help from Kate the blacksmith (Laura Fraser), William becomes able to compete. During this time he meets the beautiful princess Jocelyn (Shannyn Sossamon). He immediately falls in love and longs to win the heart of an exceedingly fair maiden.
About the same time the antagonist enters the story, Count Adhemar (Rufus Sewell). Who is also attracted to Jocelyn, and is a competitor whom William must face. Audiences will get to look at knights, honor, reverence, and all that comes with it. Teen and Boomer movie fans will love the unique way rock music is woven into this medieval story. It is a definite revision of this period of history. I really liked this story of impossible glory that was “part romance, part road trip and part swashbuckler”. My only objections to the film were two scenes of a man’s backside fully nude and implied premarital sex. The nudity is intended to depict shame, but some may still find it offensive. I also believe that our lives are better directed by Sovereign means than “the changing of the stars.” I would recommend this film with those cautions. It has all the charm of “The Princess Bride”.