10 July 2005 | mstomaso
Absolutely unexpected pleasure. Light-hearted but satisfying on many levels
This wonderfully uplifting little film has a great big heart, good humor, and a classic message about love and honor, and the rarity and preciousness of those who practice both with style. I went to see this with my spouse and a good friend of ours because THEY (the spouse and the friend) wanted to see it. I am a non-fan of comedies, and had been annoyed by the stream of trashy Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court films that had been coming out since the 1980s. My spouse had also informed me that I would be seeing Jousting performed to Bachman Turner Overdrive. My reaction was to reach for the nearest bottle of hard liquor. I didn't need it.
I've now seen this film about six times, and though I can't say that I see something new in it every time (it's just not that complicated), I can say that I have enjoyed it each and every time. The characters, though relatively uncomplicated, are very lovable and the casting is quite excellent all around. Before Brokeback Mountain, William Thatcher was Heath Ledger's most memorable role. He's a poor boy from London's Cheapside who wants to change his stars and to become an honored knight. Travelling from tournament to tournament with his fellow indentured servants, his liege passes on, and William seizes the moment - taking his armor and his horse to become Sir Ulrich Von Liechtenstein of the Gelderland.
He is joined by the other now-free indentures, and eventually, by Chaucer and a female Farrier played by the wonderful Laura Fraser. Eventually, William falls in love with a princess and is challenged by a rival for her affections with a lot more experience, money and political clout. The love story, which could have easily become a distracting annoyance, in fact, comes to dominate and drive the story very nicely.
Special kudos to Ledger, Alan Tudyk, Rufus Sewell, Paul Bettany and James Purefoy for their awesome performances. And extra special kudos to Director Brian Helgeland for pulling off an impossible task - taking a fairy tale, making us want to believe it, and yet retaining some wonderful elements of silliness often missing in the fairy tale genre. This would make a wonderful romantic living-room double feature with The Princess Bride.
Recommendation: Definitely worth seeing.