A modern day Ivanhoe style movie is not something that pops up very often. Back in the heyday of these types of movies in the 40s and 50s, they were very popular as they let you go on fun adventures and very much appealed to boys I would presume. I for one saw Ivanhoe, The Three Musketeers and The Scarlet Pimpernel etc. every time the chance arrived.
But much water has run through the stream since those days and half a decade later a new addition to the format would likely look quite ridiculous, if nothing new would be added to save the day.
A Knights Tale tries to wrestle with this old formula and in many ways succeeds to both be true to it and add things that freshens it all up a bit. It has it fare share of clichés but lets us know that it is all mostly tongue in cheek nods at the old movies so that it does not become too ridiculous.
Heath Ledger is well cast as the strapping young and carefree lad, who finds himself in a situation where his lord knight has been killed and he can impose himself as him in knights tournaments.
His trusty companions are convinced to join him expecting to be well rewarded from prize winnings. There is a bad guy, awesomely played by the always sinister looking Rufus Sewell who our ambitious young lad will defeat in the end.
There is a romantic side story, that is also quite predictable. Most notably Ledger will have to go through some stupid shit testing in the end to prove his love to her. As heroic as he is, women will try to twist your mind and do the stupidest things, including risking your own life, to make them feel special.
The sidekicks, especially Paul Bettany (one of my personal favourites), are quite good as the sidekicks and their merry little company are always there fore a quick joke or remark, while our hero is pursuing love, money and fame. Bettany plays Chaucer, who is the one with The Canterbury Tales, one of which, this tale is based.
A particularly good aspect is the realistic (at least to my eye) tournament scenes which are all naturally made, no CGI. It gives it a fresh and in your face feel that I like but which are also the main attraction of the movie as such.
The romantic side stories and the slightly cheesy ones with the royal prince and his blind father are just ok, and manages to not suck completely. Mostly held up by a solid cast all around.
The last point that must be mentioned is the music used. Queen, AC/DC, Thin Lizzy, David Bowie and others are used as soundtrack and for reasons I am not sure, actually works. Maybe it is the knightly stuff and the tournaments or something. It just feels right with these songs in a mediaeval story of this kind. And it does also bring some energy and power, instead of minstrel flutes.
My recommendations goes to this movie as it is in general good fun and never dull. It does not take itself too seriously but it does not become a pathetic slapstick either. That is a hard balance to make and I appreciate that.