A Knight’s Tale (2001)

(On DVD, May 2002) Sometimes, good old-fashioned entertainment is all you need. There isn’t anything particularly new or innovative in this medieval jousting sports drama/romance, but it does what it has to do quite well. Heath Ledger aptly carries the whole film on his shoulders, but he’s helped considerably by the presence of capable character actors, most notably Paul Bettany as “the” Geoffrey Chaucer and Shannyn Sossamon in her debut role. (Her resemblance to Angelina Jolie is astonishing, but she doesn’t get the chance to show much range in this typical romantic role.) The script is adequately written, with moments that actually improve on subsequent viewings. The jousting scenes are deservedly spectacular, giving us an idea of what it must have looked like to medieval audiences. Much has been said about the anachronistic use of pop music in the film’s soundtrack, but when all is sung, it seems almost a shame that more such fun touches haven’t been used. Then again, A Knight’s Tale successfully walks a fine line between unabashed contemporary entertainment and reasonably convincing historical re-creation. In any case, few will be left disappointed by this joyfully entertaining film. The DVD offers everything you could be looking for; information on the stunts, some historical background, a few worthwhile deleted scenes and a hilarious self-depreciating commentary by director/writer Brian Helgeland and co-star Bettany.

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