A.J.'s Rating: 4 Changing Stars  (Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes!)
A Knight's Tale
Directed By:  Brian Helgeland
Written By:  Brian Helgeland
Starring:  Heath Ledger, Rufus Sewell, Mark Addy, Shannyn Sossamon,
Laura Fraser, Alan Tudyk
Rated:  PG-13  (Violence / Nudity / Mild Sexuality)
Running Time:  132 Min.
    So here's the idea:  Let's start with a story that takes place in the middle ages, with brave knights and fair maidens, starring some of today's brightest young actors.  We'll tell a fine story of rebellion, courage and forbidden love.  Hmm, it's still missing something... I know!  How about a soundtrack full of classic rock & roll hits, and plenty of attitude to match?  Gawd, that sounds right awful, doesn't it?  Sounds like it's just a special time-traveling episode of Xena: Princess Warrior or something.
   
    That's what I thought when I first saw the trailer for A Knight's Tale.  That's even what I thought during the first few minutes of the movie, but the strength of the story, along with some very funny dialogue, soon began to change my views toward this strange combination of Kings and Queen songs. 
   
    The story revolves around William Thatcher, played by Heath Ledger, who is a mere squire in service to a famous knight.  Through a very unfortunate circumstance (for the knight), William decides that he shall take the knight's place in that day's tournament.  His friends try to tell him that it's forbidden for a commoner to joust, but our hero William will have none of it.  Soon the innocent masquarade escalates to a full blown knightly charade, complete with a fake I.D. to document William's noble heritage.  The luxuries of secret identity continue with the aforementioned fair maiden, as well as a nasty villian to battle against for her hand in royal wedlock.  As the tale unfolds, much adventure, action and merriment ensues.  This is a movie worthy of admission! 
   
    Now you're wondering where all that rock music fits in, right?  Rather than simply pilfering those classic oldies for the film's soundtrack,  writer / director Brian Helgeland has done something much more clever.  In an inspired move, he has incorporated the music into the story.  In other words, if you're hearing the song "We Will Rock You", then so are the characters in the film.  In addition, the use of classic rock & roll is completely appropriate to the plot, one of love, youthful rebellion and choosing one's own destiny.  After all, what better embodies youthful rebellion than rock & roll?  Also, much of the film takes place at various jousting tournaments, the popular spectator sport of medieval times, with the music reflecting what would most likely be heard at any of today's most popular sporting events.  The attitudes, action and humor also reflect today's sensibilities, and the results are surprisingly satisfying.  A bit less satisfying are the hairstyle and makeup choices, but this is but a petty quibble.
   
    The reason it all works so well is that A Knight's Tale finds just the right tone, and sticks to it thoughout the story.  The script is excellent, never getting overly silly or farcical, and while it's mainly a comedy, there are also a handful of truly wonderful dramatic scenes.  The jousting sequences are fantastic as well, grandly demonstrating the brutal sport as no previous film has.  Lastly, the standout performance is Heath Ledger as William, who proves that he has the courageous fortitude to carry a Hollywood film.  
   
    If my attempt to sway that first impression of A Knight's Tale has been successful, then my work here is done.  With no time for losers, this one's a champion, my friend, so go see it!

Review published
June 2, 2001
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