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A Knight's Tale
I always worry that my mood will effect my opinion of a movie. Being a film critic can be stressful. You have to go to the movies for free all the time. The PR folks make sure you get the best seats. Then, sometimes you get fed. Oh wait, that does sound pretty cool. Well, trust me, there's some stress in there somewhere.
However, the question still lingered in my mind. Was I turned off by Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles because traffic was bad that day and I almost missed the screening? Did I like Bridget Jones Diary because a pretty lady spoke to me before the movie? Did I hate Freddie Got Fingered because I was disappointed in the theater's nachos? (No, it was Tom Green swinging a baby around by its umbilical cord. I told you it was gross and horrible). Finally, this week, I was able to prove to myself that I am able to put on my game face and review a film without regard to my own mood. I wasn't having a good day when I went to see A Knight's Tale, but I enjoyed it immensely.
Heath Ledger stars as William Thatcher - a young, peasant lad who assists a knight and dreams of being a nobleman someday. His boss, Sir Hector, is an aging fighter, but he still participates in jousting competitions all across Europe. That is, until he dies right before a big match.
According to the jousting competition rules, only noblemen are allowed to fight, but William and his co-workers, Roland (Mark Addy) and Wat (Adam Tudyk), need the prize money. William, seeing an opportunity to joust in competition for the first time, decides to take Sir Hector's place. When he wins, Roland and Wat area ready to split the prize money and say goodbye. However, William has his own plan.
What if he continued to joust? Will the jousting officials discover that William is a mere peasant competing illegally? Will he win the heart of the beautiful woman he meets along the way?
Women swooned last July 4th when Heath Ledger graced the silver screen in Mel Gibson's hit, The Patriot (he was Gibson's too-eager-to-fight son). It looked like a new Aussie heartthrob was about to be unleashed on the moviegoing public. However, some wondered if he could hold a movie on his own. If his future movies are as well written as A Knight's Tale, he has a shot.
A Knight's Tale is an amusing, thrilling and romantic two hours. Although it is set in medieval times, writer/director Brian Helgeland throws in several anachronisms that get your funny bone working, while not making the movie too silly. Fans at the jousts do the wave. Announcers sounds like they are straight from a Vegas prizefight or a WWF smackdown. The people dance to David Bowie. These references to modern day culture make the movie more accessible to the typical audience member. You don't have to know your serf from your knight in this one. Helgeland cuts through that to create characters and situations that keep the audience engaged.
After starting off with a light tone, the film fittingly gets more dramatic as William gets deeper and deeper into the lie. Helgeland introduces a strong, evil foe who challenges William's ability and wants to take the hand of Jocelyn, a beautiful aristocratic woman who steals William's heart. He puts our hero in greater peril, which draws the audience in even more. Finally, we get a resolution that is believable.
Special kudos also go out to the cast. Ledger is fine, but not spectacular as the lead, but the supporting cast shines. Mark Addy as Roland and Paul Bettany as a down-on-his-luck Geoffrey Chaucer (Yes, the writer. Chaucer has several unaccounted for years in his life and Helgeland thought it would be funny if this was the explanation.) provide comic relief and key dramatic performances when needed. Rufus Sewell is properly evil as Count Adhemar the man who hates the challenge he is facing from William.
Do yourself a favor this weekend and check out A Knight's Tale. Grade: A- (minor points deduction for an unnecessary plot involving William's father).
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