Tuesday, October 4, 2011

It's Good to be the King

Hah!  Fooled you!  You thought I was gonna talk about Mel Brooks didn't you?  Ok, I'm not going to go on and on over my own cleverness (or lack thereof if you prefer) but I did feel the need to be a little silly today on account that I got terrible news yesterday.  A treasured colleague and friend from Theater West Virginia was taken from us before her time Sunday night and all of us who knew and loved her are still reeling.  I was pretty depressed when I found out, especially since I hadn't spoken to her in a long while and know I never will again, and so I tried to think of a way that I could honor her memory while also trying to keep myself from dropping into that unpleasent dark place known as despair.  I remembred that she was always smiling and always joyful, so I tried to find some films to watch that would make me feel the same way and it actually worked.  One of those is the one I intend to write about today.  I'd like to say first that I don't want to 'dedicate' this to her...only because this film is considered something of a bomb and I don't think she'd like being associated with a dud that I enjoy.  But, it still seemed appropriate because she was someone who always made me smile, like this film does.  So lets get a little silly with the highly improbable King Ralph.

Tragedy has struck in England!  Apparently, after a freak accident during a huge family photo, the whole royal family has been wiped out.  Naturally England is finding itself if deep despair and panic because they are without a monarch.  The committee at Buckingham Palace finds themselves working day and night to locate any heir to the throne, no matter how small or obscure he or she may be, and they eventually find one in Ralph Jones, an American lounge singer.  As you can imagine, the palace officials are not pleased and many would-be userpers to the throne are already sharpening their knives for the new king.  Ralph himself is rather shocked and dismayed by the news, as he finds royal life to be confining and restricting.  However, he is trying to make the best of it and to be the king that England expects him to be.  However, when he falls in love with a former stripper and offends a rival country, he begins to feel the pressure closing in on him.

King Ralph is saved from being completely abysmal (in my eyes) by two things...the actors involved and the respect that the film eventually gives to the office of the monarchy...I can already see your eyes rolling so bear with me.  If there was ever a contemporary film and television actor who always gave 110% it is John Goodman.  Whenever I see him, he is giving the roll his all whether he is being dramatic in The Babe or comic in Arachnophobia.  Even in King Ralph, whose material is about as far from high drama as one can get, Goodman shows wonderful range.  His reaction to losing his job before finding out he is King of England is one of the most sincere moments in the film where he shows frustration and desparation at the same time.  He actually sounds like a man who knows what it feels like to be at a loss.  Likewise, Peter O'Toole and Richard Griffiths as Ralph's advisors are equal parts funny and sincere as they manage to rise above the script's shortcomings and portray their characters as three-dimensional people rather than stuffy British characters.  Now as to the respect it gives the monarchy...Ralph makes a quite impassioned speech at the end of the film that both talks up England and the commonwealth, but which also gives great creedance and respect for all the crown represents to England (despite the fact that the royal family has little power anymore).  To me, that elevates the film a bit more in terms of message and quality.  If you haven't seen it, I can't promise you'll like it but it is cute.  And it makes me smile, just like she did.  For what its worth.

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