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It’s unfathomable that I wouldn’t like “Princess of Thieves”. It has everything I’ve come to appreciate — it’s a period movie, it has swords and horses, knights and battles, the Robin Hood legend, and best of all, a gorgeous lead in the young Miss Keira Knightley. Why, then, was I bored out of my mind while watching the film?
“Princess” starts off strong, with Knightley’s Gwyn lamenting her role as the only child of the legendary Robin Hood, who has gone off to the Crusades with King Richard. Being that she’s a woman, Gwyn is trapped in a woman’s role, although she longs to have adventures ala daddy. When Richard bites the dust during the Crusades, his son Philip (Stephen Moyer) is brought from France to take over the throne. Standing in the hesitant Philip’s way is exiled Prince John (Jonathan Hyde), who has teamed up with the present Sheriff of Nottingham (Malcolm McDowell) to regain the throne through murderous means.
Needless to say, an aging Robin Hood (Stuart Wilson) is sent to assure Philip’s safe arrival, which means he has to ignore his daughter even more. After a lot of plotting, misadventures, and generally bad scripting, a disguised Gwyn meets up with Philip but doesn’t know who he is. The two fall in love, Robin gets captured by his nemesis, and a generally good time is had by all — except for anyone in the audience over the age of 12 and isn’t a girl, that is.
I know it’s obvious, but it should be said anyway that only in movies, where Movie Logic exists, that Keira Knightley (“Bend It Like Beckham”), sans long hair, could pass for a “boy”. Then again, Hong Kong martial arts movies have been using this “she’s disguised as a man and no one can tell even though it’s obvious to anyone with eyes” gimmick ever since there was such a thing as “Hong Kong martial arts movies”. In fact, the gimmick was used in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” by Ang Lee.
“Princess” is a movie set in the 12th century, but made in the era — and for fans — of the Spice Girls. Like that fabricated British pop group, “Princess” imbues Gwyn with girl power, which may have been a good idea, but the execution is lacking. For someone who is supposedly the equal of any man (or so she keeps telling every man she meets), the spunky Gwyn sure needs a lot of rescuing by — gasp! — men!
Another wandering thought that occurred to me as I tried to keep my mind off the silly happenings in “Princess” was this: Should I categorize “Princess” as a foreign film? It’s an English movie, made with an all-English cast, and about an English folk hero. And most likely, it was also shot somewhere in England. But, if I’m not mistaken, the money was put up by Disney — which makes it — what, exactly? Ah heck, it’s not “foreign” enough to be a foreign film, so domestic it is!
Gee, I wish the movie was more interesting so I wouldn’t have to think about these mundane things…
“Princess” is a PG-rated teen movie, made for television, and it’s bloodless. There’s a lot of talk about killing and murder, and a character even gets tortured. But all in all, the movie was made for a targeted audience — teen girls under 12 — and everyone else will be bored by it.
Peter Hewitt (director) / Robin Lerner (screenplay)
CAST: David Barrass …. Cardaggian
Malcolm McDowell …. Sheriff of Nottingham
Keira Knightley …. Gwyn
Del Synnott …. Frod