See Errol Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Hood — and then see Danny Kaye in The Court Jester. As the former is the ultimate Hollywood swashbuckler classic, the latter is the ultimate swashbuckler spoof, and one of Kaye’s finest, funniest hours.
Not only does it terrifically succeed where movies like Mel Brooks’s Robin Hood: Men in Tights miserably fail, The Court Jester also as merry, high-spirited, and wholesome as the adventures it parodies, with none of the cynical, anarchic spirit (or content issues) of the likes of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
It’s also a genuinely entertaining tale, with a convoluted
plot involving an evil usurper king (Cecil Parker), a scheming
knight (Basil Rathbone) who covets the false king’s throne, and a
Robin-Hood / Zorro type hero-outlaw called the Black Fox (Edward
Ashley). Kaye stars as former circus performer Hubert Hawkins,
now the meekest of the Fox’s merry men, who dreams of
Viewers always remember the classic tongue-twisting wordplay of the "vessel with the pestle" scene, but The Court Jester is full of hilarity, from Hawkins’s sparkling debut as a jester, to his rapid-fire personality changes under hypnosis, to his accelerated elevation to knighthood. It couldn’t possibly better be!
(Written by Suzanne E. Greydanus) Where is the real man here? Giselle’s rapport with Morgan and sweet naiveté are endearing; are we supposed to find Edward’s incompetence and arrogance equally so? Do our female hearts swoon when he checks his teeth in his sword, or boorishly flails it about at everything that moves? Why can’t the prince be an idealized example of chivalry, bravery, strength and honor, as Giselle is of sweetness and goodness?
Rob Reiner’s great cult classic The Princess Bride is one of those rare satiric gems, like The Court Jester and Galaxy Quest, that doesn’t just send up a genre, but honors it at the same time, giving us the excitement and pleasure of the real thing as well as the laughs of a comedy.
Borrowing a page from Sleeping Beauty, therefore, Levine came up with the central dramatic conceit of her Newbery Honor-award winning book, Ella Enchanted: From her infancy Ella has been under a fairy curse (here bestowed in cluelessness rather than malice) obliging her to obey any imperative statement directed at her, from anyone. The moral of the story, in the author’s own words in interviews and letters to readers, is: "Don’t be too obedient!"
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.