Apparently audiences couldn't quite figure out A Knight's Tale when it had its theatrical release last year. This was in all likelihood due to the combination of rock music in ancient times clashing with our knowledge of history and our delicate sensibilities. However, having both seen this at the cinema and owning it on DVD, I would like to hope that this movie will be given a second chance to win new viewers as it really is a good film and great fun!
Heath Ledger (The Patriot) displaying great charm and a winning smile throughout, plays William Thatcher, squire to a washed up champion jouster, who dies during a competition, leaving William to masquerade as his master in order to collect their winnings. Aided by his initially less than enthusiatic pals Roland (Mark Addy from Full Monty) and Wat (Alan Tudyk, 28 Days) William fakes nobility to illegally enter competitions. On their travels they encounter a naked wanderer, the future famed author, Geoffrey Chaucer (Paul Bettany) who joins their 'crusade' and helps to forge William's ancestral lineage, so that he can take part in the noblemen only games. Whilst competing (according to my wife who seems to like every Australian film star) the very handsome William catches the eye of a lady, Jocelyn (the very beautiful Shannyn Sossamon), and sets out to win her heart. However, standing between William and his two goals of winning the World Championships and winning the hand of Lady Jocelyn stands the dastardly Count Adhemar (brilliantly played by Rufus Sewell, Dark City).
This is a surprising change of direction for writer/Director Brian Helgelend (LA Confidential). This movie is great fun and the mixture of rock music (they sing, clap and stamp Queen's We Will Rock You before each joust) and medieval times works surprisingly well, adding to the excitement and atmosphere of each competition. Both Heath Ledger and Shannyn Sossamon shine in their lead roles and share excellent on-screen sexual chemistry. However, it is Paul Bettany who steals most scenes as the occasionally naked, always in trouble, lyrical Geoffrey Chaucer. Also watch out for James Purefoy in a relatively small role (but tipped for greater things)!
Extra features on the DVD include a light-hearted commentary from Brian Helgeland and Paul Bettany, where they reveal some of the FX tricks of the trade and hear Helgeland feign ignorance of the fact that they didn't dance to David Bowie in 1366 or play Queen's "We Will Rock You" at jousting tournaments. There is also a passable documentary and some excellent deleted scenes and a music video where Britains most popular of current musical stars Robbie Williams performs Queen's "We Are the Champions" with all the pomp and grandiosity of Freddie Mercury, outlining why he is considered natural heir to Mercury's throne as Britains Greatest Showman.
Four stars for the movie (five stars are far too often and easily dispensed), four stars for the extras. Well worth checking out.