I don't do well with combat scenes. When swords start swinging, bullets start flying or fists start pounding, I'm one of those moviegoers who hides her eyes behind open hands, grimacing at the mere sound of impact. But A Knight's Tale, a light-weight medieval tale set largely in the jousting ring, is so innocuous that the clashing of lances at high speed is visually digestible, even for a coward like me.
In fact, the jousting moments comprised the most enjoyable and memorable moments in this silly film. Babe/boy Heath Ledger plays William Thatcher, a tow-headed peasant who steals a dead knight's armor and enters the ring incognito since only titled gentry are entitled to participate in the joust.
Along the way, William and his hapless band, including roly-poly Roland (Mark Addy of The Fully Monty fame) and dim-witted Wat (Alan Tudyk), run into a wayfarer who's lost his clothes in a gambling disaster. Turns out the naked guy's a poet of the common folk named Geoffrey Chaucer (Paul Bettany) who joins in William's masquerade, dubbing him Sir Ulrich von Lichtenstein and laying claim to the movie's most intelligent scenes.
A Knight's Tale basically follows William from tournament to tournament, picking up new characters along the way, including the obligatory love interest, beautiful Jocelyn (Shannyn Sousamon), gritty female blacksmith Kate (Laura Fraser) and arch-enemy Count Adhemar (Rufus Sewell) who William must defeat to win the national title and Jocelyn.
A minor, humorous distraction from the thin plot and pleasant visuals of A Knight's Tale is the gimmick of orchestrating the fights to classic rock songs. Early on, the crowd breaks into "We Will, We Will Rock You" as William enters the ring and the audience chuckles amiably in recognition.
That pretty much sums up the experience -- amiable and innocuous. Don't look for a history lesson though the film tries lamely to sell you one in class warfare, and don't expect to be offended or riled up. A Knight's Tale doesn't have the dramatic power to raise a hair, but it's not a complete waste of time either.