A Knight’s Tale

knights-tale-poster“Stop letting him hit you!”

The Scoop: 2001 PG-13, directed by Brian Helgeland and starring Heath Ledger, Rufus Sewell, and Shannyn Sossamon

Tagline: He Will Rock You

Summary Capsule: Unwashed whelp becomes a knight, defeats the finest in the land.

Lissa’s Rating: Best a silly girl given a flower by a silly boy with a horse and stick.

Lissa’s Review: A Knight’s Tale is one of those fun, entertaining movies that isn’t at all deep and meaningful, isn’t meant to be, and no one really cares because it’s so much fun to watch.

It’s been a stressful week for Duckie, and he decided to relax with a glass of mead. (The mead was left over from Geekfest. And amazingly, I am not writing this review after drinking a glass, nor did I drink any during our viewing of A Knight’s Tale.) Anyway, he decided we needed something appropriate to watch while drinking a medieval beverage, and it’s been a long time since we watched Heath Ledger knock people over with sticks.

Excuse me. Lances.

A Knight’s Tale is, essentially, your classic poor-boy-making-his-way fairy tale. Therefore, you can guess the basic plotline already. Poor boy gets the opportunity of his dreams, lies about who he is to take it, rises to glory, wins the girl, gets caught in the lie, and then triumphs anyway. Yawn, some days, and in some aspects. But the cliché is okay in A Knight’s Tale, because there’s other stuff worth watching.

Heath Ledger is William Thatcher, a peasant squire who decides to try his hand at jousting. Of course, you have to be of noble birth to joust. So with the help of his squires Roland (Mark Addy, a favorite of mine) and Wat (Alan Tudyk) and his newfound herald Geoffrey Chaucer (Paul Bettany) and blacksmith Kate (Laura Fraser), he becomes Sir Ulrich Von Lichtenstein of Gelderland. Now, personally, I would have come up with a less ludicrous name, but there you are. With a few forgeries and a rather entertaining training montage (where Roland and Wat heckle him mercilessly), Will/Ulrich enters the jousting competitions. And naturally meets the love of his life (Jocelyn, played by Shannyn Sossamon).

William is actually a rather entertaining character as far as pretty-boy leads go. At least he’s not flat and cardboardish, and Heath Ledger does a decent job playing him. But he’s absolutely overshadowed by his supporting cast. Mark Addy just plays the sarcastic buddy role so well, and Paul Bettany has just the right amount of overdramatic flair and restraint. Add in the often — but not always — clueless Wat and the far-from-obnoxiously-feminist Kate, and you’re watching the supporting cast far more than the lead boy himself. The love interest Jocelyn is completely annoying to me, but I guess that’s what love interests tend to be. Although she does add a new extreme by insisting that William prove his love by losing the tournament, which when jousting is just cruel. And then she has the nerve to look appalled at his pain! (Me, I always thought William should go for Kate. She could kick Jocelyn’s butt any day and doesn’t insist on self-punishment for people to prove their love. But I don’t think he’d have a chance with Kate.)

For all that A Knight’s Tale sounds like a death trap of cliches, it’s not, and that’s what makes this film so much fun. First — and most noticeably — there’s the music. Like Moulin Rouge!, modern music was used to convey emotion. From “We Will Rock You” at the beginning to the brilliant use of “The Boys Are Back In Town”, the soundtrack choices really worked here. It’s a rare non-musical that stands out solely because of its soundtrack, but that’s one of the defining elements for A Knight’s Tale.

On top of that, there were other plot devices I was pleased to see avoided. When Jocelyn asked William a direct question about his identity, he answered it honestly. Not only is it nice to see the hero being honest when he should be, but even nicer to circumvent the whole “you LIED to me” argument you always get in these fake-identity films. Kate is never matched up with any of her cohorts, and I think she’s a stronger character for that. But it’s really nice to see at least one attractive woman in the movie not have to get entangled in a romantic subplot. But the love lives of the supporting characters are acknowledged, during one of the most beautiful love-letter-writing scenes I’ve ever seen. William’s feelings and rekindled relationship with his father are handled subtly and wonderfully, and the summation of everything it means to him is short, poignant, and delivered very honestly. I tear up every time Wat tells Will his father heard him being called Sir William.

It could have been a little wittier in places, and sometimes the comments are mumbled so they pass by you because you can’t hear them. (Or maybe I’m just deaf, which is a valid possibility.) But overall A Knight’s Tale is fun and well suited for brain candy when you actually want some intelligence. More movies like this should be made.

Excedrin Headache #45

Excedrin Headache #45


  • Because I always enjoy the awards aspect, Paul Bettany did get a ALFS award for best supporting actor in this.
  • Heath Ledger knocked out one of director Brian Helgeland’s front teeth with a broomstick when the two were demonstrating a jousting move. It was several months before Helgeland’s mouth had healed enough to repair the damage. He says it was the only jousting injury during filming.
  • The initial scene of the two knight’s jousting in the first scene of the movie is actually footage of Heath Ledger’s stunt double in an accident. During filming of a later scene in the movie, the lance of the stunt double’s opponent moved off target and hit him in the head. The double fell to the ground unconscious. The entire footage was used for the introduction.
  • Newsweek revealed in June, 2001 that print ads for at least four movies released by Columbia Pictures, including A Knight’s Tale and The Animal, contained glowing comments from a film reviewer who did not exist. The fake critic, “David Manning,” was created by a Columbia employee who worked in the advertising department. “Manning” as misrepresented as a reviewer for a newspaper in a small Connecticut town. Personally, I think that’s kind of funny.
  • When Chaucer first introduces “Sir Ulrich” in his speech and the crowd does not react at first, because the Czech extras could not understand the speech. This reaction, or lack of it, was left in.
  • Kate the blacksmith is MUCH prettier than Jocelyn.
  • The Nike product placement.
  • During “We Will Rock You”, one of the peasant women simply cannot clap in rhythm with the others.
  • Paul Bettany naked. Hey, I noticed.
  • It’s not a great idea to ride a horse into a church, although it does seem to impress the ladies.
  • The appearance of Paul the Pardoner and Simon the Summoner
  • When in doubt, make things up.
  • Holy water: a convenient medium for handwashing.
  • Jocelyn is a psychotic wench, when it really gets right down to it.
  • Is It Worth Staying Through End Credits? According to IMDb, yes, because there’s an extra scene at the end. I really need to see this scene.

Groovy Quotes

Will: What do you mean, dead?
Roland: The spark of his life is smothered in s**te.

Will: How did the nobles become noble in the first place?

Chaucer: Fine, it was allegorical.
Roland: Well, we won’t hold that against you, that’s for every man to decide for himself.

Wat: Stop letting him hit you!

Roland: You may feel like a poet, but you sound like an idiot.

Adhemar: You have been weighed, you have been measured, and you have been found wanting.

[Keeping beat for a dance lesson]
Chaucer: And one and two and three and four and your hands should be light like a birdie on a branch. And one and two and three and four and Wat doesn’t lead he follows like a girl.
[Wat punches him]
Chaucer: And one and two and twirlie twirlie twirlie! And one and two and you’re still getting it wrong! And one and two and three and four you can hit me all day cause you punch like a… what?
Roland: A girl!

Kate: You’re not going to wear your hair like that, are you?
Will: Is there another way?

Jocelyn: Better a silly girl with a flower than a silly boy with a stick and a horse.
[Awkward, meaningful pause as she walks away]
Wat: It’s called a lance. Hello!

Adhemar: How would you beat him?
Noble: With a stick. While he slept.

Wat: Say something about her breasts.
Roland: Yeah, you miss her breasts.
William: Her breasts.
Chaucer: Ye… yes, you… you could, umm… umm… but I… I would tend to look above her breasts, William.
William: Well I… I miss her throat.
Chaucer: Uh, still higher really, toward the heavens.
Kate: The moon at least, her breasts were not that impressive.

Jocelyn: His horses flanks! Ugh!

Wat: That’s your name, Will. Sir William Thatcher. Your father heard that.

Wat: You have been weighed.
Roland: You have been measured.
Kate: And you have absolutely…
Chaucer: Been found wanting.

William: Welcome to New World. God save you, if it is right that he should do so.

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  1. Pingback: A Knight’s Tale: A Fun Middle Ages Mash-Up | Movies Are Fun!

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