HORSING AROUND 

HORSING AROUND

You can t make everyone happy all the time. It s an old saying, but someone should have reminded the makers of A Knight s Tale.Combining all the elements of summer blockbusters past (a handsome hero, buddies in tow, overwhelming odds, honor, courage, the love of a beautiful woman, and a hit soundtrack -- think Armageddon, Con Air, Independence Day), A Knight s Tale, like its main character, has a big desire. In the film s case, it s to win the pocketbooks of all the summer moviegoers. In the case of William (Heath Ledger), son of a thatcher, it s to be a knight. To help his son fulfill his dream, his father apprentices him to a knight. When, years later, an unfortunate turn leaves the knight -- just a match away from winning a tourney --ÿdead, William takes his place, wins the tournament, and voila! His stars are changed. Posing as Sir Ulrich von Lichtenstein of Gelderland, William becomes a great knight and falls in love with Jocelyn (Shannyn Sossamon), a beautiful maiden. Everything is great, he s winning the tournaments (his main competition in the joust and for Jocelyn, Count Adhemar, is away fighting a war), but there s a hitch. You have to be a noble to participate, and William is decidedly not. And if he s found out, well, it s off to the stocks and some other not-so-pleasant ordeals. Wanting to combine the best of the old and the new, A Knight s Tale is a mishmash of modern culture meets period piece. In a purely gratuitous dance scene, Ledger takes a Travolta turn and struts his stuff Saturday Night Fever-style. While most of the cast wears brown, taupe, and more brown, Jocelyn looks like she could be modeling Versace, with spiky streaks of fire-engine red in her hair and mendhi-like makeup decorating her eyes. She s no shrinking violet. Knowing that women s roles in medieval society are not exactly palatable to most modern females, the two main female characters (Jocelyn and William s blacksmith) challenge (however mildly) their station in life. The mix of old and new is nowhere more pronounced than in one of the oddest acts of product placement ever seen: After making William a new suit of armor, the blacksmith etches a well-known swoosh onto the back (okay, it might not be product placement unless Nike is coming out with some sort of chain mail this summer, but that didn t prevent most of the theater from yelling out, Nike! at the time). Although A Knight s Tale follows most of the summer blockbuster formula to a T, it s lacking one main component: explosions. Instead, the action consists of a bit of sword fighting and a lot of jousting. Perhaps there s a reason why jousting hasn t retained its popularity. It might be an ancestor to modern-day chicken, but after the 100th time -- okay, the fourth time -- seeing two horses barreling at each other and two guys in full armor ramming each other with long sticks, well, it gets a little boring. The filmmakers say they tried to make all 27 matches different in some way, but they failed. The horses ran, the lances broke, the guys in armor fell backward on their horses ... and sometimes fell off. Whoo. While A Knight s Tale is in no way bad -- it followed the formula -- it s not really good, either. It strives to be everything for everyone and ends up falling short. And as the main character proves, it s possible to change your destiny, but you ve got to be something special. A Knight s Tale isn t.

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