A Knight’s Tale (2001)

a knights tale IMDb

This was one of the first movies I bought on DVD. I still don’t know why I did. I never saw A Knight’s Tale at the movies, and really had no interest in seeing it when it was released. Nevertheless, this is a fun film, led by the gone-too-soon Heath Ledger, even if it is basically a teen comedy dressed in Medieval clothes.

Ledger plays Will Thatcher, an assistant to a noble man who competes in jousting competitions throughout Europe. When the boss dies, Will and his buddies (Mark Addy and Alan Tudyk) are left without a stable income. As only noble men can compete in these tournaments, Will decides to get some noble birth certificates drawn up by a travelling writer, Geoffrey Chaucer (Paul Bettany) and compete himself. Will becomes Ulrich Von Lichtenstein, and wins over the masses with his great performances. Along the way, he attempts to win the heart of a young noblewoman, Jocelyn (Shannyn Sossamon), and defeat the best jouster in the land, Count Adhemar (Rufus Sewell). Will Jocelyn still love Will when she inevitably discovers his less than noble past?

A Knight’s Tale is an entertaining film, led by a really solid cast that are clearly enjoying themselves. Heath Ledger shows in this role how much talent he had. This could have so easily been just a generic rom-com, but Ledger has the talent and charisma to make this film far more enjoyable than it should have been. The supporting cast is also great. Paul Bettany is very funny as Chaucer, who eventually becomes Will’s assistant and announces him to the crowds before he competes.

I must also mention the soundtrack of this film. I have recently been blown away by the awesomeness that was Guardians of the Galaxy, and while that film is easily the best soundtrack I have ever heard, A Knight’s Tale is not far behind. The soundtrack features cool old school rockers like Queen, David Bowie and AC/DC. The soundtrack is definitely one of the film’s highlights for me.

A Knight’s Tale is an entertaining comedy, led by the charming Heath Ledger and an assortment of solid supporting characters. It is one of the better teen comedies and definitely worth checking out.

Rating: B-

This movie was so big during my Junior and Senior years of high school. Everybody fell in love with Heath Ledger (at least those of us who had not seen him in 10 Things I Hate About You). Queen’s “We Will Rock” and David Bowie’s “Golden Years” got a sudden surge in popularity. I even remember a couple of my more well read friends taking an interest in the work of Geoffrey Chaucer after this was released.

It’s odd then that it just now occurred to me that A Knight’s Tale is basically a teen movie dressed in medieval clothing. I think the more clever anachronisms and inclusions of actual historical figures fooled me. I’ve also not watched this movie in the last decade, and had forgotten most of the actually plot. And of course there’s the sad passing of Ledger. He was a great actor, but there’s no doubt that I remember this film more fondly because of his association with it.

That’s not to say that this is a terrible teen movie. It’s just not one of the better ones. The plot is basically the same as most other teen flicks. Peasant William (Ledger) is pretending to be someone he’s not in order to win the affections of Jocelyn (Shannon Sossoman), a noblewoman. There’s a lot of chaste flirting, Jocelyn insisting that William prove his devotion to her in a ridiculous manner, and an obligatory love triangle that threatens to expose Will’s identity. If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because you’ve seen all these elements before in other movies.

Still, A Knight’s Tale does a decent job of making it all feel fresh, ironically doing so by setting the story about 600 years prior to the films that inspired the plot. It also employs a classic rock soundtrack, which is a bit novel for a genre that usually relies on whatever music is currently popular to score scenes. These two choices give the movie a timeless quality, which is actually pretty difficult for teen films to achieve. Movies like The Breakfast Club and Clueless have already started to show their age thanks to decade specific fashions and music. Even Mean Girls is slowly becoming dated as technology advances. But by removing most of this, A Knight’s Tale manages to avoid this trap. It’s just too bad it’s not as well written.

Rating: C+

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