Review: A Knight’s Tale (2001)

A clever premise boils down to a predictable story, but it’s all in good fun.

While I was aware that the twist on this knightly tale was its rock soundtrack, I didn’t realize it incorporated the music directly into the story.  Knights compete for the hand of a fair lady, all to the beat of Queen, David Bowie, War, Thin Lizzy and BTO. Surprisingly enough the music works with the story–and not in the usual lame schilling for a pop soundtrack sort of way.

The film’s first (of many) jousting scenes features competitors riding into the ring as a rowdy audience chants along with Freddie Murcury singing “We Will Rock You.” As the 14th-century crowd beats their fists and sashays in the stands, it pumps the viewing audience up as well, setting the stage for a rollicking good time.

Unfortunately, the party sputters out about the half-way mark when the story takes a familiar track toward a predictable ending. Heath Ledger stars as a man of lowly birth who impersonates nobility so he can compete in jousting tournaments. In this early role, Ledger demonstrates there’s a promising actor behind that pretty face. He’s surrounded by a great supporting cast, most notably Paul Bettany as Chaucer. The weakest link is first-time actress Shannyn Sossamon as Ledger’s love interest; neither she nor her storyline is very interesting.

Despite that, the production is great to look at, the jousting scenes exciting, and the characters are good company for two hours’ entertainment. All in all, great fun in a Saturday matinée sort of way.  [*** 1/2 out of 5]

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