William Thatcher (Heath Ledger) is the aide to a well-known knight. On the verge of winning a tournament, the knight dies, leaving William and the knight's other assistants, Roland (Mark Addy) and Wat (Alan Tudyk) desperate. They haven't eaten in three days and need the prize money to fill their stomachs. Will takes the knight's place and wins the tournament. They decide that Will should pose as a knight and compete in other tournaments. Only noblemen are allowed to complete and Will is anything but noble. Along the way, they run across Geoffrey Chaucer (Paul Bettany), who then tags along for the ride. Geoff, as his friends call him, becomes a sort of ringside announcer, revving the crowd up for each of William's appearances.
"A Knight's Tale" is an interesting mess from writer- director Brian Helgeland. The success of just about every movie relies on the ability of the audience to suspend a certain amount of disbelief. In order for that to happen, the film has to have a certain amount of reality. "A Knight's Tale" has little, if any, basis in reality. I didn't buy it.
The first joust is preceded by every one in the audience stamping their fists and singing along to Robbie Williams and Queen singing "We Will Rock You". It was an interesting idea, in the trailers and commercials, but to have 14th century people singing along to a rock song is just stupid. Throughout the rest of the film, the 20th century music is played in the background to little effect.
We have all heard of films based in the past in which their were historical inaccuracies. Cowboys wearing wrist watches, roman soldiers wearing tennis shoes, etc. There have even been modern day reinterpretations of stories set in the past. Baz Luhrman's 'Romeo+Juliet' is a good example. "A Knight's Tale" does neither, falling somewhere in between. Frequently, the characters spout 20th century jargon, yet also continue to speak in a style that most people would buy as 14th century England. Why bother with the antiquated speech at all? If you want to have someone say 'Hello, it's called a lance' in the way that people do, to indicate something should be obvious, or to say 'Yes', in a way to indicate that they are pleased, why bother trying to make the characters seem as though they have walked out of a Shakespeare play. It is inconsistent and dumb.
Geoff Chaucer becomes a sort of ancient WWF ringside announcer. Dumb.
Jocelyn, played by Shannyn Sossamon, seems to be a sort of jousting groupie. Her role at these events is never really explained. Why is she popping up at these events? Will, of course, sets his eyes on her, and she returns the favors.
The jousting scenes are interesting, but the characters lack believability and interest, causing us to find nothing to identify with.
Ultimately, the film plays like a live-action version of the classic Bugs Bunny cartoon 'Knighty Night Bugs'. Bugs is having his ears done and gets hit on the head by an apple, transporting him back to Medieval times. There, he has trouble blending in, using 20th century phrases, until he realizes that he should start using phrases like 'Here sooth'. Ultimately, he jousts the Black Knight (sounds very familiar). After he talks about his friends including the 'Count of Basie'. He is hit on the head again and returns to the present day.
I felt like I was hit on the head by an apple.