Distributor: Prism Leasure
Running Time: 92 minutes
Year of release: 1999
Director: Neil Mandt
Production Studio: Crystal Sky Communications
Here’s a clip…
Sometimes, before a film even starts, the audience themselves can set the tone for what to expect. How so? Well, much like the old saying about bringing knives to gun fights, when preparing to sit down to watch Arthur’s Quest, I accidentally brought a spoon from the kitchen instead of a pen. I was in the middle of cooking some food, so perhaps this blunder was understandable, but I felt, and looked pretty stupid. But even if I had written this review with a spoon, I’m absolutely certain I would still have found work with Crystal Sky Communications as a scriptwriter.
My uncertainty as to what I was doing with a spoon in my hand was matched only by my uncertainty as to what the fuck I was about to watch. Seriously, a kids film? But I shouldn’t have been worried about being talked down to, as it turned out to be a retelling of the Arthurian Legend, and the classic tale of when King Arthur traveled forward in time to be kidnapped by the woman from Baywatch, which as themes go, is up there with The Lovely Bones. And yes, it’s supposed to be a children’s film (if you hate your children) but it’s stupendously moronic as not only a movie in and of itself, but as a retelling of the King Arthur story, and considering that the original legend of King Arthur was pretty ridiculous, then hats off to Arthur’s Quest for at least going the extra mile.
It’s basically the Terminator 2 of the King Arthur legend, if the time-traveling Terminator was instead a guy in chain-mail called Timmy.
A Legend Begins (in a cave)
Arthur’s Quest opens with the following line…
“The land is at war…”
Read that again, but in voice of the Emperor from Star Wars. Something more like…
“The lend is at wor…”
Yes, it’s ye olde shite talk, and this is the past. Nothing too difficult to get the head around so far. All very normal behavior for this kind of thing. The first shot of the film shows someone cleaning a big sword inside a cave. Acceptable. However, the man doing the cleaning is perspiring so heavily that I’m worried for his health, which is irrelevant. He might be sweating like a nervous waterfall, but he’s also the narrator, so Sweatsy proceeds to recap us all on the Arthurian Legend, except he refers to Merlin as a sorcerer. Are they not the evil ones? I thought he was a mage. My apologies film, I’m poking holes.
We cut from the fiery steam-room to what appears to be an after-school drama group, who are having a wonderful time on the side of a hill.
Is this supposed to represent a war, a skirmish, or a bunch of escaped lunatics? I’m not sure, but either way, it’s dramatic. The camera pulls back to…
…a different skirmish? Because that other one is quite far away. Are they related? Oh, I forgot. It’s a lend at wor.
My frown turned in to wracking laughter as the film completely ruined the very first shot of the very first combat scene in the film. The man to the right of the above image completely fucks up his exceptionally easy to remember choreography (it’s pretty much swing to the left, swing to the right), making the other guy look like he grazed him very gently across his shin. But this idiot reacts as if he’s been killed. So, instead of retaking the shot or simply editing out that obvious mistake, the film cuts to a slightly different angle where he is now completely fine and swinging (“It’s left, THEN right, Gary!”) from left to right. All this heart-thumping drama is accompanied by the audio of a man standing on his chair and screaming because he just saw a spider.
It’s fucking amazing.
We then see a disorienting series of fast cuts flit across the screen, one of which includes the shaking of a small boy. Menacing. The boy is rescued by a king on a horse and they escape to safety. Phew! The boy and king-man eventually arrive at a clearing and dismount, which is followed by the most stupid thing ever.
Rolex? Fuck you peasant, I’m a king!
You see, this particular king is not like other kings because he can tell the time by (no shit) looking at his hand. “It’s three o’clock” he mumbles. But the boy isn’t impressed. He can tell the time by staring at the ground.
He calls out for Merlin, who is lurking in the bushes (there’s a lot of bush-lurking in this movie), but as he approaches the camera, he unintentionally slips and falls on the ground, and for the second time in five minutes I absolutely lose my shit. Fucking hell director, just re-shoot it!
“No way! It gives the movie character if I don’t know what I’m doing.”
I had to pause the film because I couldn’t stop laughing and I couldn’t hear what they were saying. I then rewound it and watched the scene again, just to be sure. And yes indeed, he slips on his arse, but the actor playing Merlin is a professional, so he gets right back up.
They start babbling about reuniting the land, but Merlin has fucked everything up by failing to predicted their current situation. His excuse for being a shit wizard is that a “Horrible evil!” has blocked his vision (and sense of balance). Then, this woman…
…wonders out of some different bushes, and we are introduced to Morgana. The group are initially all pally, but two of Morgana’s henchmen (much more on them later) appear out of thin air and…Oh no! Shenanigans!…she is actually an evil sorcerer and not a nice sorcerer (?) who wants Excalibur for herself. Cue lot’s of “ha ha ha’s” and hand-rubbing. The king instructs Merlin to protect the child, which Merlin does by courageously standing behind him. Merlin then begins blabbering about quantum mechanics and…oh wait, he’s casting a spell. Fair enough. Merlin actually says the words “Hocus! Pocus!” and the most expensive cast member, Adobe After Effects, comes into shot.
Just before Merlin and the boy escape through the special effects swirl, the king says…
“Heroes never die!”
…right before being stabbed to death. Smash-cut to the future where Merlin and Arthur are almost killed by a speeding car. Oh no!
But everything’s okay, because Merlin, after confusing the boy with big-person gibberish, abandons the five year old child on a motorway and goes back through the portal. I found this behaviour to be a little on the neglectful side, if I’m to be frank. But then again, this is the future, so maybe Merlin was simply trying to protect himself from filling out complicated adoption forms. What happens next however, is a very important plot point and worth writing down. Do you have a spoon?
The ugliest woman from Baywatch (I’m not saying she is ugly, just that compared to everyone else in that T.V show she absolutely is) almost runs the boy over. She gets out of her SUV to ensure the boy is unharmed, and then…
Ten years later…
The quiet town of California ebbs and flows, as ethnic majorities go about their daily this and that, blissfully unaware they are being filmed for stock establishment footage. We slow pan to a gaming arcade, where an additional slow pan reveals a hideous looking teenager and his girlfriend. And yes, he really is hideous. I honestly cannot impress upon you how wrong all of this child’s features are, as he looks every bit like the result of that time the Hanson brothers fucked a gorilla, and were all proud parents of a botox addict. This child’s lips, ears, and nostrils are in constant flux, and more resemble a balloon model of a cow than human features.
The two rapscallions are playing hooky off school and, remembering this, Gwen (yes, this film covers all the bases of the King Arthur legend) asks King Arthur what the time is. So he…Go on. You can finish this sentence yourself…looks at his hand.
“It’s three o’clock.”
At this point the film implies that they are actually brother and sister. Oh, okay. Really? But what about their obvious chemistry? No, I’m leaving this alone. They go to their mothers place of work, a restaurant where she works as a waitress, to fill her full of lies about where they have been. There we meet…Oh my God!
Brion James! How’s things buddy! You never call!
Brion James appears to be a good guy in this film (and has lines, unlike in Nightmare at Noon), but he still can’t help looking evil as all shit. As Baywatch-lady confronts the duo’s tardiness, King Arthur’s ‘mother’ says to her ‘son’…
“It’s my duty to put a roof over your heads.”
Er, no Baywatch-woman. You fucking kidnapped this child ten years ago. I’d say your only duty with regard to King Arthur is to hand him over to child services. But it would seem my analysis of Brions James’ character was incorrect, as King Arthur catches Brion James checking out his adopted mothers ass and nodding approvingly. Shame on you Brion.
Meanwhile, right outside, Merlin appears through one of his low-budget portals in an alleyway, and gets mugged in broad daylight by the very first person that sees him. He runs away, and conveniently bumps in to Mother. They both begin flirting with each other, so Brion James hires him as a bus-boy, which is a terrible idea. Honestly, the man is wearing magicians robes, and is probably riddled with the plague. He has no place in a high risk food service job.
Mother, who has hands down the best lines of dialogue in this movie, says the following.
“Welcome to North Valley, where we roll out the red carpet and kick you over the head with it.”
How do you kick a carpet over someone’s head? Are you okay? Did you swallow too much water when filming Baywatch, you moron?
Anyone for an uncomfortable erection?
So, back at ‘mother’s’ house, she brings out the nonsense for a second time when having a heart-to-heart with her 15 year old child about wanting to have sex. And that’s her wanting to have sex mind, not him. So eventually she explains…
“You better stay up here over dinner. I wouldn’t want you to be disgusted by my behaviour.” (actual quote)
…and yes, this film is rated U.
The aforementioned dinner and ugly-bumping was supposed to take place with Merlin, a man she recently met in an alleyway, who arrives at her house carrying flowers and wearing a suit and tie (where did he get these from? How does he know what they are? He’s from the middle ages). Merlin starts laying on the smooth, but Mother cock-blocks him savagely, sending him on his not so merry way. Because of this, I don’t think it’s unfair to accuse her of giving mixed signals, not just to Merlin but to the audience as well. I’ve certainly gone flacid. King Arthur doesn’t seem to know what he wants either, as he sneaks out of his house and goes to school (?).
Let me get this straight. During the day, when King Arthur is supposed to be at school, he goes to the arcade. And at night, when King Arthur is supposed to be at home, he goes to school. Do you have any idea the time and money the education system is wasting on you King Arthur? No of course you don’t, because you’re too busy not having parents.
Regardless of his own stupidity, King Arthur dons his rollerblades and off he goes to sulk on school property, and whilst sitting there being whimsical, his sister turns up under a spotlight and romantic music ensues.
Oh shit! Right, okay. They’re aren’t siblings. They’re just friends. My bad. She moves to kiss him. He closes his eyes, awaiting her soft lips…and she slaps him across the face. Which is hilarious, and a relief, given that I still have in my head that they are related to each other (and are clearly children). So, instead of committing incest, they chase each other about the place and we see that Excalibur is buried inside a fibreglass statue of the school mascot. Because, obviously it is.
At this point in the movie I pressed pause to get some snacks, as I was still hungry. When I came back from thinking about Arthur’s Quest in my kitchen, I thought I had figured out why on earth something as stupid as Arthur’s Quest was made, because I’m fairly sure that at this point in the film even an opinionated asshole could figure it out.
stupid films 101
Crystal Sky Communications made Arthur’s Quest because it was easy. Very fucking easy. All they had to do was borrow an established fairy tale (and therefore someone else’s creativity) but the copyright for which has long since expired, and change the formula slightly. Why not have it occur in the present, circumventing the need for expensive sets or having to fly everyone to Scotland? Write the script on the back of a court summons, film on location as close to the studio as possible, and have the Hallmark channels programming director on speed dial. Hire actors who everyone recognises but struggles to remember what from. Basically cheap B or C list actors who featured in something popular years ago, but will now read any old shit just to try and stay in the business.
A good example of this is Baywatch woman. Who, given her ham-fisted line delivery, most likely had some pretty heavy gambling debts (Baywatch ruined a lot of lives), and really needed this gig. As such, she phones in every second of her performance, collect call from Jupiter, much like everyone else with lines. But even the most lazily constructed cash-grab require an audience, right? And given that no child could ever make it ten minutes in to this pile of shit (I tested this theory), then who is it for?
Well, so far anyway, Arthur’s Quest seems like the kind of milquetoast piece of crap that people watch when recovering in hospital from spinal injuries or cholera. Outside of it’s cheap stupidity, it’s inoffensive and banal, and perfectly suited to people who can’t get up to turn it off. It’s the thing that rests on dusty shelves in Grandma’s house, only seeing the light of day when the reluctant grand-kids visit, and need a distraction, and even at this halfway point in the film, I’m not certain who would actually enjoy it. Although I suppose if you’re in hospital and have terminal AIDS, you’ll love it!
Anyway, it’s pointless to dwell on the ‘whys’ and ‘wherefores’ at this late stage. Lets just get on with it.
Not the legend you were looking for
Morgana (remember her?) turns up in the present through her own portal. However, it would seem Adobe After Effects must have gotten drunk and tried to kiss the producers wife, as anything requiring it now occurs off camera. Instead we get to hear the sound effects of a portal, and she walks in to shot along with her two henchmen…Slagador and Timmy.
You think I made their names up, don’t you?
Black and fucking white.
So, Morgana, Slagador, and Timmy are now wandering around North Valley in full Renaissance Fair garb, carrying swords, and looking for King Arthur. Which surely means shit is about to go down.
Meanwhile, back at Mother’s house, she is impatiently waiting for King Arthur to get dressed and extolling yet more paycheck-material.
“If you’re late for school I’m going to stick your face in the microwave.”
And not for the first time, I have to pause, not to take notes, but to wipe away the tears. As things continue, Merlin jumps out from behind some bushes to confuse King Arthur with portal and end-of-the-world babble, and Timmy and the gang beat the shit out of the school principle so that Morgana can play substitute principle for the day. Oh, and this sign was the fruits of the design budget
Cut to classroom where we meet…Oh my God!
Clint Howard! How’s things buddy? You never call.
Meanwhile, Slagador and Timmy have eschewed the chain-mail in place of something a little more dapper.
…and I’m becoming increasingly embarrassed by Morgana’s dialogue. It’s all “Excalibur” this, and “Ha ha ha” that. Nonsense, basically. Then after a disconcerting scene in which King Arthur’s sister, sorry…girlfriend, is (no shit) punched in the face and kidnapped by Timmy, Merlin convinces Mother that he is the legendary Merlin and that Gwen has been kidnapped by an evil sorcerer so that she can force her ‘son’, who is King Arthur, to give up Excalibur and take over the world.
They have this conversation in her kitchen.
For some reason, the pupils have taken over the school, and Clint Howard…
…doesn’t give a flying fuck. Mother, after (again, no shit) successfully defeating Slagador and Timmy with a serving spoon most likely used to write the script, rescues Gwen, and Merlin throws a fireball at Morgana…
…making her disappear. Oh, and Morgana made hundreds and hundreds of school pupils disappear as well, which is a small detail that is never acknowledged or rectified. So, after inter-dimensional magicians try to murder her ‘son’, Mother is easily convinced to go back to work at the restaurant. Herself and Merlin have a heart-to-heart, and a romantic scene ensues.
“I suppose you have to go back to Camelot?”
I’m struck by how, even with gentle violins playing, Baywatch-woman doesn’t kiss him. Good on you girl! Heavily armed Bulgarian debt collectors may be observing you from off camera, but there are some things an actress just shouldn’t do. And could you blame her? She used to be in Baywatch, and he was in…holy shit, Knight Rider? But Merlin doesn’t have time to keep going for her knickers, because it’s…
…time to end this fucking crap
So, after some extraordinarily stupid shit happens, with everyone looking embarrassed, the final showdown happens in an observatory. For some reason Clint Howard is there (you pay for Clint Howard, you get Clint Howard) and the final battle happens between King Arthur and Morgana. Again, we can hear the special effects but are not allowed to see them, as their swords fizzle and crackle like lightsabers.
Morgana, who is clearly struggling with the weight of her sword, gently knocks King Arthur’s sword to the ground. He spouts some crap about his father and heroes and such, and simply strolls over to her and takes her sword instead. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon it ain’t.
It would seem that Adobe After Effects has sobered up and apologised, and is now allowed back in the film, as this happens.
So, with Morgana and her knights defeated, King Arthur’s dead father turns up to say hello. A portal is opened back to the past, and King Arthur’s ‘mother’ only agrees to travel back in time with him if she is allowed to become (no shit) Secretary of State. Does she realise where she is going? They ask Clint Howard if he would like to live in the Dark Ages, but he thinks twice and decides to stay and repair the school (and presumably figure out where all its pupils went). Good idea! And very logical. Except they give him a sword. Probably not a good idea. You’re a history teacher, you don’t need a sword.
Merlin is okay with going through the portal, as one might expect, but King Arthur’s sister, sorry…girlfriend, who has parents and a life here in the present, agrees to go as well. Really? There is no WiFi where you’re going. I’m being serious. The Dark Ages didn’t have flushable toilets. And do you have any fucking idea what they used for femine hygene products in the ninth century? Just do a quick Google search there before you make a decision on this, Gwen.
Seriously, I looked it up.
It’s fucking cotton wrapped around a twig.
It wasn’t until the end of the movie that I realised that this guy was Billy from Gremlins. Thanks for ruining the legend of King Arthur AND my childhood, you piece of shit.