Friday, May 24, 2013

Movie Review: The Court Jester

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Comedy mixed with a decent story.  Did I mention it's funny?
Cons: Slow start and the songs
The Bottom Line:
Cornball comedy
That will still leave you laughing
More people should watch

The Court Jester Gets Much More Than He Bargained For

Last weekend, my friends invited me over for a movie night.  They'd gotten The Court Jester from Netflix, and the husband really wanted to watch it.  The rest of us hadn't heard of it, but we were gamed for anything.  And we had a great time.

The movie is set in medieval times.  In the kingdom involved (I think it's supposed to be England, but it doesn't really matter), Roderick (Cecil Parker) has overthrown the rightful ruler and killed the entire royal family, taking over as king.

Well, almost.  The youngest heir, still a baby, has survived, and is being hidden by a group of outlaws in the woods.  They have a plan to return the throne to the rightful heir.  They just need a man on the inside.

And that's where Hubert Hawkins (Danny Kaye) comes into play.  Hubert is part of the outlaws, but his training as an entertainer leaves him out of the action.  Until one day when he gets a chance to go undercover as the new court jester.  Unfortunately, his job is complicated by plots, counterplots, witches, and duals.  Will he be able to help the outlaws?  Will he even live?

Now if you think for a minute you're going to be watching a serious movie, put that thought right out of your mind.  This is a comedy, pure and simple.  It takes a little while for the laughs to get started, but once they do there is no stopping them.  There is so much witty word play, if you like that kind you'll be rolling in the aisles.  My friend and I were dying, although his wife and a friend of hers weren't quite as amused as we were.  Some of the comedy also comes from the situation.  There are several cases of mistaken identity, which lead to plenty more laughs.  And the climax is so funny, too.

Parts of the movie were corny.  I enjoy a dose of corn every so often, so I didn't really mind.  But if the corn from an older film bothers you, you'll probably want to be prepared.

Despite all the laughs, this movie has a serious plot.  Even though I figured I knew how things would turn out, I had no idea how in the world they'd get there.  Yes, the laughs were entertaining, but the story kept me just as engaged.

Since this is a Danny Kaye movie, I wasn't that surprised that there was singing.  I've got to admit that was my least favorite part of the film.  He got all the songs, despite such people as Glynis Johns and Angela Lansbury in the movie.  A couple of them were fun, but for the most part I thought they just slowed things down and didn't add anything.

The cast did a great job.  The villains (including Basil Rathbone), were menacing enough to make us concerned about the outcome.  Even the corniest lines were delivered appropriately.  If a scene called for the serious or the funny, the actors pulled it off perfectly.  And Danny Kaye, you had to switch personalities at the snap of a finger some times, juggled it all with ease.

Despite the slow start and the songs, I really enjoyed this movie.  Kids will absolutely love The Court Jester, and it's appropriate for them.  Those young at heart will enjoy it right along with them.  4.5 stars rounded up for this comedy classic.

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