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Sunday, August 8, 2021

[Fantasia Review] ‘King Knight’ Is a Silly, Heartfelt Ode to Being True to Yourself

A new Richard Bates Jr project is always a cause for celebration because it’s guaranteed to a) make you squirm or b) make you laugh (often despite yourself). With King Knight, the writer/director, known for his caustic comedies and macabre horrors, delivers a bemusing property that broadly satirizes the New Age self-improvement movement, albeit with a healthy dose of self-empowerment and positivity. 

The comedy is focused on Wiccans Thorn (Matthew Gray Gubler) and Willow (Angela Sarafyan), romantic partners and leaders of a small commune who live in the California woods. The group, introduced in a series of couples counseling sessions, includes gay couple Desmond (Johnny Pemberton) and Neptune (Josh Fadem), newly expecting couple Rowena (Kate Comer) and Percival (Andy Milonakis), and politically correct-obsessed couple Echo (Emily Chang) and Angus (Nelson Franklin). There’s also a cat, Lord Whiskers and Barbara Crampton.

Bates Jr delights in acerbic wordplay and witty asides, and King Knight is packed to the rafters with chuckle-worthy examples. The film is equally interested in satirizing the popularity of New Age, bohemian Wicca lifestyles as it is the societal norm of accruing wealth and starting a family.

It makes sense, then,  that the film’s major inciting incident involves both Willow’s reluctance to get pregnant and the revelation that Thorn has been lying about his past, specifically who he was in high school. 

Following a successful Beltane celebration (captured in gyrating slow motion set to dance music by Michi Britsch), coven members Percival and Rowena reveal that they are pregnant via near-immaculate conception (the details involve cum scraped off a computer keyboard and some herbs). This opens a recurring rift between Thorn and Willow, the latter of whom discovers a series of emails outlining Thorn’s dark secret: not only was he class president and prom king in high school, he was voted Most Likely To Succeed and <gasp> played Lacrosse. 

These symbols of conventional popularity are the ultimate form of betrayal to Willow and the other coven members, who banish Thorn to a “walkabout” in the California brush. As the group debates whether they can ever trust their leader again, Thorn inadvertently embarks on a journey of self-discovery, culminating in a Romy and Michele style high school reunion wherein the Coven leader not only performs a mandated “inspirational dance” to the student body, but everyone recognizes what is most important in their lives.

King Knight is both a very silly, satirical take on New Age sensibilities, as well as a heartwarming meditation on accepting your faults and finding your people. While the screenplay has no shortage of jokes at the expense of the coven and their WASP-y rituals and problems, the takeaway message is universal: true happiness is achieved by accepting yourself and your loved ones, despite (or is it in spite?) of all of the faults.

Lest audiences fear that’s too gushy and emotional, Bates Jr ensures the messaging goes down easy via plenty of ridiculous visual and narrative developments: 

  • Fancy an animated sequence (courtesy of Nabeeh Bilial) about a character realizing their purpose while in a public bathroom stall? No problem. 
  • How about a hallucinatory motivational speech from Merlin the wizard (Ray Wise)? Yup, that’s here.
  • What about a philosophical discussion about how to approach life’s problems with opposing points of view presented by a rock and a pine cone (voiced by Aubrey Plaza and Bates Jr regular AnnaLynne McCord)? Obviously.

Plus: the film is just damn funny. From jokes about Australian’s pop singer Natalie Imbruglia’s Torn to a recurring bit about how everyone – including celebrated French actress Juliette Binoche – has “poop in the butt”, to gay relationship puns conflating “hole” and “whole”, King Knight is replete with witty rejoinders, scathing critiques and bitchy observations about PC culture. 

What makes it work is the heart and child-like silliness of the whole enterprise. King Knight’s message may ultimately be a touch slight, but the film is never less than amusing.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/reviews/3677339/fantasia-review-king-knight-silly-heartfelt-ode-true/

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