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Friday, November 5, 2010

LIONHEART: THE CHILDREN’S CRUSADE (1987)


The only film ever produced by Talia Shire (sis to exec-producer Francis Coppola, wife to Rocky Balboa) was this ramshackle affair about a young knight errant (wispy Eric Stoltz) who longs to crusade alongside Richard the Lionheart. But a series of picaresque adventures puts a pack of orphans in his care which attracts the attention of the dastardly Black Knight (a dreadfully hammy Gabriel Byrne), who has designs on the brood. There’s a pleasingly human scale to the film and the analogue effects don’t try to overwhelm us, but the story refuses to hang together. Franklin J. Schaffner was able to ground the fantastic elements of PLANET OF THE APES/’68 by squaring all the corners (exactly the qualities missing in Tim Burton’s remake), but his earth-bound craftsmanship misses whatever tone this film might have been aiming at. Even the action set pieces which should be his strong suit, don’t ‘read’ properly. (And borrowing a whole scene from Victor Hugo’s Court of Thieves in NOTRE DAME is a low blow.) You get the feeling that everyone gave up on this one before filming wrapped. A shame, since the basic story is not without promise. The poster tried to hook in the STAR WARS crowd. That failed, too.

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