A Knight's Tale (PG-13)
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This movie came out in 2001. I remember watching the video in December of that year, at a Christmas party with my sister and some of our cousins. I had a broken ankle at the time, and I was getting around with a walker. In spite of that, it was fun. I kind of feel like I might have seen the movie before that, presumably in the theater, but I can't remember for sure. Whether the party was the first time I'd seen it or not, I'm pretty sure it was the last time I saw it before watching the DVD in December of 2011... wow, ten years later. Anyway, the movie is set in the 1300s, but it's full of anachronisms, including using 1970s music. This may have drawn some criticism at the time, from some critics, but it's hard to imagine now, because that kind of thing seems fairly commonplace. I also need to say, the movie opens with “We Will Rock You” by Queen, and I found it completely predictable that it would close with “We Are the Champions” (albeit a version featuring Robbie Williams). Because I have pretty much never heard the former song play on the radio without immediately being followed by the latter. It's a whole thing. (I feel like I've seen those songs used similarly in other movies, but I can't quite remember. Though I do have a plan to someday write a movie, myself, that would use the songs. Maybe I won't. I dunno.) Anyway, I should also mention that the use of anachronisms and modern music in a medieval setting reminds me somewhat of Shrek, which came out the very same month as this movie, but which got better reviews and box office.
Anyway, it stars Heath Ledger, as well as some actors I'm not really familiar with, even though I've seen them in other things before or since. I think the only actor besides Ledger with whom I am particularly familiar is Alan Tudyk. Ledger plays a squire named William Thatcher, whose master, Sir Ector, had died in the middle of a jousting tournament (apparently on a break between matches). William and his fellow squires, Wat (played by Tudyk) and Roland, hadn't eaten in three days, and forfeiting the match would mean they couldn't afford to eat anytime soon. So William decided to don Ector's armor and joust in his place, despite the fact that jousting is not allowed by anyone not of noble birth. With his identity concealed by his helmet, William wins the match (by a technicality of points). So, he and the others now have 15 pieces of silver to split between them. After some argument, William convinces them to use most of that money on training, so that he could enter another match in a month.
After they've been training for some time, they meet a naked man, trudging down the road. He turns out to be the famous writer Geoffrey Chaucer, whom none of them had ever heard of (played by Paul Bettany, who would later become a bit more familiar to me). He's apparently been robbed. Or something. He agrees to provide them with fake patents of nobility, in exchange for clothes and food, so that William could enter the next jousting tournament. William takes on the assumed name Sir Ulrich von Liechtenstein of Gelderland. Chaucer also begins traveling with them as Sir Ulrich's herald, and takes great delight in introducing him to audiences, using his considerable skills as a writer to embellish the fake knight's history. Meanwhile, William sees a noblewoman named Jocelyn (Shannyn Sossamon), and tries to... win her heart, I guess. Though she plays very hard to get; and William is not the only person interested in her. There's also a nobleman named Count Adhemar vying for her attentions.
Um... so anyway, before long, Sir Ulrich has a match against Adhemar, and loses. After that, he becomes obsessed with beating Adhemar, though it will be quite awhile before they have another match. Meanwhile, Ulrich and his friends meet a blacksmith named Kate, who fixes his armor one time, and later makes him some new, improved armor of her own design. And she begins traveling with them, wanting to go to Paris (where they eventually end up for another tournament). By that time, Ulrich had won a bunch of tournaments, which annoyed Adhemar, when he heard about it. (He'd been absent from competition for some time, for a reason I won't get into.) Of course, he was also upset about Jocelyn preferring Ulrich.
Later still, they go to London for the world championships. It seems a bit odd that Kate was still with them, as I thought she just wanted to go to Paris, but whatever. Maybe she did want to go to England, and thought it was just too far to ask them to take her. Anyway, more importantly, Adhemar was entered in the tournament there. Meanwhile, William reunites with his father, who he hadn't seen since he was a young boy. (We'd seen the two of them together in a few flashbacks.) There is a complication which could prevent Ulrich from having his long-awaited rematch with Adhemar, but I won't spoil that for you, nor anything that comes after, I suppose. But of course there's ultimately a happy ending.
So. What else can I say? There was a fair amount of humor in the movie, mostly from Wat (Tudyk excels at playing funny characters, and Wat is no exception). Chaucer was also amusing, in various ways (including his interactions with Wat). And while I was torn about whether to include my review in "action/adventure" or "period pieces," I chose the latter, because the jousting and swordfighting and all was pretty cool. (Edit: I later moved it to "sports movies," after I created that category in 2017.) But I should say, even though William/Ulrich is a nicer guy than Adhemar (which isn't hard, considering what a colossal jerk that guy is), it seemed they both were only interested in Jocelyn for her beauty. And while she definitely deserved better than Adhemar, I did think sometimes that William deserved someone better than her (she certainly caused some trouble for him). And then again, I dunno. After all, this is the Middle Ages, so both William and Jocelyn's attitudes were... more modern than you might expect, but still more primitive than I'd like. Anyway, in addition to the humor, cool music, cool action, and pretty girls, there was also some drama which wasn't bad. And, you know, even if there were some flaws, it's still nice to see the hero win in the end. And get the girl. And whatnot.
Also there's a bonus scene after the end credits, featuring Wat, Roland, Chaucer, and Kate. Not my kind of humor, there, but you might like it.