With a tremendous opening act Richard Bates, Jr’s King Knight should be a home run of a comedy. Its farcical premise leads you to think it will keep the momentum going throughout, sadly though it stutters. However, the warmness of the characters and story easily keep you watching.
Thorn (Matthew Gray Gubler) is the High Priest of a coven of new-age witches in Los Angeles. Other than the catholic school kids who leave flaming bags of poo at his down, life is good for him, his wife and his coven. But when a secret from his past comes to light, forcing him to take a trippy journey of self-discovery back to the place he tried to leave behind.
There is a great deal to love about King Knight, the offbeat charm mixed with just the right amount of absurdity to keep the laughs coming. Matthew Gray Gubler is surrounded by a bevvy of talent that enables the laughs to keep coming. However, what hits home the most is how warm-hearted the film is. There is no real malice present here; everyone has faults, but they all have their strengths that Bates, Jr, is all too willing to highlight to his audience.
However, the feeling that there should be more to the story or that it hasn’t been developed to its fullest refuses to leave you from the second act onwards, as if it was a short that was dragged out to feature length but without enough moments or direction to fill those gaps. King Knight becomes a film where the premise and set-up are just so much stronger than the whole.
The first act is the strongest by far and sets up all the goodwill that King Knight earns and eventually needs to get you through the rest of the film. The entire sequence where Willow (Angela Sarafyan) discovers the truth about Thorn is exceptionally well done and is something you would find on a skit show. These opening moments are extremely entertaining, with the jokes and fun continually rolling, be it the downsized pyre for their celebration due to an incident the year before or the easily fixable issues that the coven come to their High Priest and Priestess about.
So, when Thorn is confronted about his past in front of the group, you have the highest of hopes of where King Knight is going to take you, but that is where the film also starts to lose its way. As soon as Thorn, now banished from the coven, disappears off on his walkabout to find redemption, King Knight begins to lose its way. Characters like Barbara Crampton as Thorn’s mother don’t nearly get enough screen time when their presence to help flesh out why Thorn veered down the coven route. There is a greater need to find out more about him and the rest of his coven. Instead, we are given while humorous, overly long chase scene with Thorn.
Sadly, the final act doesn’t click in the way it should, allowing the budget of King Knight to expose itself. The themes of the film are what works, though, being true to oneself when they have figured them out and not judging a person just by who they were, but who they are now. In those retrospective moments, the film is a joy; you just wish it had more of them. At times you think Bates Jr is going to mock the coven outright, but he just about refrains from this. Instead, it highlights how sometimes, when lost people with a common interest find each other, a community can be born, even if it is to do with witchcraft.
That is perhaps the most frustrating thing about King Knight; with a bit more work on the script, it could have been utterly fantastic. What we are left with is still a funny film but could have been so much more. Regardless it is still very much worth a viewing.
King Knight will be released on UK digital download from 8th August
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