A Knight's Tale (PG)

Review by Jack Foley

DVD FEATURES: Commentary from star Paul Bettany and director Brian Helgeland which is terrific fun; 11 deleted scenes; 11 featurettes, including background on the soundtrack, the stunts and a profile of Heath Ledger; and a HBO Making of... documentary; Robbie Williams and Queen 'We Are The Champions' music video.

THE promotional poster boasts that `We Will Rock You' when advertising this simplistic but oh-so enjoyable medieval jousting yarn - and rock you, Heath Ledger and co most certainly will.

It's not often that you'd associate the likes of Queen, Robbie Williams and David Bowie with ye olde times of brave knights and glamorous noblewomen; but this is exactly what you get when watching director Brian (Payback) Helgeland's new movie.

And what sounds like something to avoid, is actually a masterstroke of creativity, managing to make a tale which may alienate younger audiences into a crowd-pleasing romp that everyone can enjoy. Braindead it may be, but it also arrives free from the historical pretensions of blockbusters such as Pearl Harbor and should be equipped well enough to deliver its own killer blow at the summer box office.

Ledger (last seen alongside Mel Gibson in The Patriot) stars as young squire William Thatcher who uses the untimely death of his master to seize the opportunity to don the knight's mantle and make his fortune in jousting tournaments.

Aided by his loyal but none-too-bright sidekicks Roland (Mark `Full Monty' Addy) and Wat (Alan Tudyk), Thatcher concocts a plan to con his way into nobility and a rags to riches future with further assistance from Paul Bettany's wonderfully realised Chaucer (``you can call me Geoff'') whose addiction to gambling constantly lands him in trouble.

And, needless to say, the boy from the back streets of London wins over the crowd of each tournament he plays, and the heart of Shannyn Sossamon's feisty noblewoman, while courting the jealousy and resentment of Rufus Sewell's conniving and posh villain.

It may sound like a bog-standard Hollywood yarn but A Knight's Tale gets by on charm alone, thanks in no small part to the enthusiasm of its players, the vigour of its director and its unashamed ability to poke fun at itself.

Ledger, in particular, cuts a suitability dashing heroic figure (and builds on his good work in the aforementioned Patriot), while Addy and Tudyk make a delightful comedy double act (a sort of Laurel and Hardy), and Bettany's silver tongued Chaucer is simply a joy.

Sewell cuts an admirable and suitably slimy baddy (another Brit doing well), while newcomer Sossamon (all pouting lips and modern attitude) strikes the right type of sparks off Ledger to make this a worthwhile debut (she smoulders, particularly when dancing to Bowie's Golden Years with Ledger).

The action sequences are also well-handled (Helgeland turns in some bone crunching jousting to keep things moving), as are some of the in-jokes at the expense of modern spectator sports (most notably, the domination by clothing labels such as Nike). Even the modern soundtrack works, with the likes of `We Will Rock You', and `The Boys Are Back In Town' capable of putting a smile on the face even when it should be a groan.

If there is a down side to A Knight's Tale, it's that it does ultimately outstay its welcome (it's just in excess of two hours) and it is a little too keen to stick rigidly to formula, but whereas so many blockbusters this summer have come across as thinly veiled excuses to make the studios money; this one also sets out to entertain. And it does so in spades!