A Knight's Tale

Bomb Rating: 

Jousting is a form of 14th-century entertainment in which two idiots with nothing better to do race at each other atop horses and try to knock one another off with big sticks called lances. Essentially, it's the 14th-century version of American Gladiators.

Though it's not my intent to play the role of Encyclopedia Britannica, do note that the 14th century was over 600 hundred years ago. So it's just a bit disconcerting when, before the opening match, the crowd starts stomping to the beat of Queen's "We Will Rock You." Okay, fine -- if that's what it takes to get those teenage boys into the theater with their teenage girlfriends who wet their panties like some sort of failed Pavlovian control group at the very sight of Heath Ledger, so be it. However, when the crowd actually starts singing the Queen song, one has to figure that writer/producer/director Brian Helgeland actually smoked the research material instead of reading it.

Though "A Knight's Tale" pretends it's different, the film is basically an amalgam of every clich├ęd sports film every made. Because William is poor and because only noblemen can fight in the joust, he poses as Sir Ulrich von Lichtenstein of Gelderland and fights in the tournaments. Apparently, nobody bothered checking credentials back then, nor did they have a sense for ridiculous fake names, so anybody could walk around claiming to be noble and attempt to woo noblewomen. In "A Knight's Tale," noblewomen who discover the ruse react with sympathy and utterances of "true love." In the real 14th century, the offender would have been by castrated by a hulking village idiot using a brick.

With just a little practice, William becomes the best jouster ever, presumably because he's poor and has all that heart. Of course, there's the evil Count Adhemar (Rufus Sewell) who's the only other decent jouster in the land and also happens to be wooing the same chick as William, Jocelyn (Shannyn Sossamon). Golly, stop me if you've heard this basic plotline before. Fortunately for William, it's not how large his stick is, but how he uses it. William also has his group of comic relief friends leading him around, including Roland (Mark Addy), Wat (Alan Tudyk) and Geoff Chaucer (Paul Bettany). Naturally, somebody eventually finds out about William's ruse precisely at the wrong moment, and naturally, William and Count Adhemar have a showdown in which William comes back from the brink of defeat to win the day. In the real 14th century, William would have been hauled from the tournament and beaten to death with diseased sheep.

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