Dir: Brian Helgeland
Star: Heath Ledger, Shannyn Sossamon, Rufus Sewell, Paul Bettany
Avoided this like the plague when it came out – medieval crowds singing along to Queen songs? Give me a break. Was finally whined into it by stepson Robert, and have to admit, it’s not that bad – though given half an hour with the script, I could have seriously improved it. Step #1: remove all the ludicrous modern songs. To borrow a phrase from Jabootu, just because you can use Bachman Turner Overdrive in a movie about jousting, doesn’t mean you should use Bachman Turner Overdrive in a movie about jousting. It grates horribly, even in a movie filled with (deliberate) anachronisms of dress, speech and conduct, and Helgeland should have decided whether he wanted to make a film set in the middle ages, or one with Thin Lizzy on the soundtrack.
Step #2: have the hero (Ledger) tell the irritating and whiny French princess (Sossamon) to sod off. With her constant “Do this! Do that! Prove your love for me! Again!”, she is the most irritating love interest since Denise Richards in Starship Troopers. I yearned for him to see sense and go off with his blacksmithess. Or even his horse, dammit. Otherwise, it’s more fun than I expected – though admittedly this isn’t saying much. Ledger plays a lowlife peasant scum who pretends to be a noble so he can enter jousting contests, find fame and fortune, defeat the evil villain (Sewell) and win the hand of the Annoying French Tart.
He is assisted by a motley bunch of amusing assistants, including Geoffrey Chaucer (a joke doubtlessly wasted on the core demographic for this movie), and things proceed exactly as you expect. Still, it has its moments: Paul Bettany is great as Chaucer, and I laughed at the gratuitous football chants. Nearly 130 minutes is way too long, especially given its predictability, but there’s just about enough entertainment here to keep you from falling out of the saddle.