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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that A Knight's Tale is a 2001 medieval movie in which a man born a peasant sets out to prove that he's worthy of being a knight. There's frequent jousting and sword-fighting violence: Characters fall off horses, sustain severe bruises, some blood. A man is shown hanging dead from the gallows. As the quest begins, a naked man suddenly appears and walks past the knight-to-be's entourage; brief male nudity (buttocks). There's some sexual innuendo: talk of breasts, a mention of having "uncrossed her legs." Some language occurs: frequent use of "s--te," the UK variant of "s--t." The word "fonging," used frequently by one of the characters, can sometimes mean beating someone up, but in other contexts it has an "F" word connotation. There are some modern nods throughout the movie, primarily in the form of classic rock songs like "We Will Rock You" and "The Boys Are Back in Town," but this nod to modernity takes a turn into product placement territory when the blacksmith of the group, upon giving the knight his newest armor, distinguishes it by carving swooshes that look like the Nike symbol.
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What's the story?
Heath Ledger plays William Thatcher, a knight's squire who steps into his liege's armor when the knight is killed in a jousting match. All he is thinking of is winning the match so that he can get some food for himself and the other two squires (Mark Addy as Roland and Alan Tudyk as Wat). But once the armor is on and the lance is in his hand, his childhood dream of being a knight is awakened, and he persuades Roland and Wat to help him pretend to be a nobleman so that he can continue to compete.
Is it any good?
This is Ivanhoe crossed with Rocky for a new generation, and it's great silly movie fun. Of course William meets a beautiful princess (Shannyn Sossamon) and an arrogant champion who competes with him for the princess and the title (Rufus Sewell, wonderfully brooding as Count Adhemar). The secret of William's low birth is revealed at the most dramatic moment. But there's a happily-ever-after ending that is just right for this fairy tale. Ledger holds his own well in his first leading role, and Paul Bettany is completely winning as Chaucer, who may have a gambling problem but who knows the value of words. Sossamon, in her first role, is pretty but unimpressive. The art direction sets the scene beautifully, and, if you're willing to give it a chance, the music works very well, especially in a dance sequence that shifts about 600 years into David Bowie mid-step. If Bachman Turner Overdrive had been around in the 1400s, they would have played "Taking Care of Business" during combat.
If the idea of a medieval jousting movie set to classic rock songs like "We Will Rock You," "Low Rider," and "The Boys Are Back in Town" bothers you, forget A KNIGHT'S TALE and rent Ivanhoe instead. But if the idea appeals to you, get some popcorn and get ready for a ravishingly good time. In other words, leave skepticism behind, and it will rock you.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the music. Does it distract or add to the story?
How does this story compare to other medieval quest movies?
How was Geoffrey Chaucer, the author of the immortal work The Canterbury Tales, presented in this movie? To what extent do you think this was an adequate representation, and where do you think the movie exaggerated or took liberties?
- In theaters: May 11, 2001
- On DVD or streaming: June 4, 2002
- Cast: Heath Ledger, Paul Bettany, Shannyn Sossamon
- Director: Brian Helgeland
- Studio: Columbia Tristar
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Character strengths: Perseverance
- Run time: 132 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: action violence, some nudity and brief sex-related dialogue
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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