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King Knight Review – A King And A Miss

King Knight Review – A King And A Miss

I’m not sure where to start with King Knight. Film reviews often like their gore, and I’m not sure it does anyone any good to continue that trend, but King Knight is not good. In a year where I’ve seen Morbius, FireStarter and Umma in theaters, King Knight might be the worst movie I’ve seen. Director Richard Bates Jr. has previously made a great horror film that wasn’t particularly scary, and now he’s tried to recreate the trick again – what we have here is a comedy that isn’t funny.

The story sees star Matthew Gray Gubler as the leader of a coven of witches who is also a sex-help guru. There’s just about enough in that premise to sustain a movie, but it’s then thrown out immediately. Instead, Gubler is invited to the high school reunion to give a speech and for some reason an interpretive dance, as is the tradition with former Prom Kings. However, he never told his coven that he was Prom King, and for some reason was expected to do so. He gets kicked out and then spends the entire movie going to school, having conversations with stones and wizards. It sounds like it could be entertaining, but rest assured, it’s not.


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We’ve seen this story done before (and better) in 20 minute sitcoms. It’s a gentle journey of self-discovery that sacrifices anything intelligent or meaningful for a bunch of dead-on-arrival jokes. The character makes fun of himself but appreciates who he is, and his friends realize they love him for it. If it had been a 20 minute episode, at least less of my time could have been wasted. Any plot obstacles disappear as soon as they occur. Can’t let the story get in the way of the jokes. The sex-comedy stylings of the first ten minutes have potential, but as soon as that wears off, so does any fleeting interest.

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It’s no real surprise that the film has a cheap sitcom feel when so many of the cast are B-tier sitcom actors. Kate Comer, Nelson Franklin, Ray Wise, Johnny Pemberton and Andy Milonakis are all “them from that thing”, although at least Wise also has decent dramatic experience. As for Gubler, I wouldn’t say he was underutilized when the camera is pointed straight at him for the entire runtime, but he doesn’t feel especially stretched. Angela Sarafyan of Westworld fame is Gubler’s partner and is a wonderful straightwoman against all these crazy jokes that, I can’t stress enough, are not funny. She’s wasted here, but at least swims relatively clean out of this swamp.

As I’ve previously mentioned, I’m a fan of Bates’ earlier work. This has none of the flavor of Excision. There is no over-the-top wit, no social commentary, no complexity at the heart of the protagonist. All this bit and texture is swept aside for a lot of random jokes one after the other with nothing special tying them together. I’d say it’s pretty relentless in these gags, though it hardly matters when so few of them land. If you like people saying funny things and acting like a joke – and perhaps more importantly, want to see Matthew Gray Gubler on screen for an hour and a half – then you might get the point of King Knight, but I couldn’t.

It may just find its audience somewhere, but from a director and star who’s made a career of cult classics that deviate from mainstream appeal, this is their biggest turn yet – it eschews all appeal altogether. One of the recurring jokes, which I think should also be somewhat profound, is that “everyone has poo in their butt”, which several characters repeat throughout the film. I’m not sure if Bates Jr. thinks it’s so funny that it requires a callback, or whether he knows it’s the lowest rung of simple comedy and hopes that characters saying it over and over will eventually convince you that it’s funny, but whatever he suspect, he is wrong. You know that part in Family Guy when Mr Conway Twitty comes to fill in time and we all understand it’s meant to be a joke, but it never really is? King Knight is Mr Conway Twitty.

I don’t think I have anything nice to say about King Knight that isn’t about Angela Sarafyan. It’s a poor and predictable plot, with repetitive jokes that miss the mark, thin character development, and worse, it tries to trick you into thinking it has some emotional resonance. Unless you love Matthew Gray Gubler (or poo, I guess), I see nothing for you here.

Score: 1.5/5. An online screener was provided for this review. King Knight is available in the UK on VOD from 8 August

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