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Desson Howe - Weekend section, "Most of the time, this movie is the wrong kind of draggin'."
A knight called Bowen (Dennis Quaid) is mentor to the king's bratty son, Einon. When a battle leaves the king dead and the prince dying of a pierced heart, Bowen and the queen take the ailing boy to a dragon's lair. The dragon (voiced by Sean Connery) gives Einon a fiery heart transplant.
But as a condition to his new lease on life, Einon has to promise to follow the "Old Code," a collection of noble, knightly intentions and kindnesses. The unpleasant Einon makes the vow, but we know better. Twelve years later, Bowen, banished from the court, is reduced to killing dragons for money and comes face to face with the original beast.
A Knight to Forget
By Desson Howe
The makers of "Dragonheart," a mythic yarn about a talking dragon, a dragon slayer and dire times in 10th-century England, have spared no effort creating their star monster. Another product from Industrial Light & Magic, this fire-breathing, soaring creature is a technical wonder to behold. But they've skimped on everything else. The script douses the movie's fiery potential and director Rob Cohen soaks all remaining embers with his cheap, made-for-TV direction.
A knight called Bowen (Dennis Quaid, whose anachronistic accent is the least of his annoying qualities) is mentor to the king's bratty son, Einon. When a battle leaves the king dead and the prince dying of a pierced heart, Bowen and the queen (Julie Christie) take the ailing boy to a dragon's lair. The dragon (voiced evocatively by Sean Connery) gives Einon a fiery, Steven Spielberg-style heart transplant.
But as a condition to his new lease on life, Einon has to promise to follow the "Old Code," a collection of noble, knightly intentions and kindnesses which pretty much sums up the Mondale platform for 1984. The unpleasant Einon makes the vow, but we know better.
The story jumps (if that's not too energetic a word for this movie) ahead 12 years. These are bad times: The dragons are dwindling, King Einon (now played by David Thewliss) has become a thoroughly nasty tyrant and Bowen has done absolutely nothing about his bad hair. Bowen, banished from the court (hey, it's a depressing castle anyway), is reduced to killing dragons for money.
Face to face with the original beast, a 43-foot-long bad boy who stands 18 feet high, Bowen engages in a knock-down-drag-out battle that produces no winner. The dragon then makes a startling revelation, followed by a business proposal. Bowen, he declares, has killed every fire-breather except himself. Why not make a St. George-and-the-dragon act of all this? The dragon (whom Bowen dubs Draco) will attack a village with fire, Bowen will charge the villagers money to get rid of him, they'll stage a mock killing, then move on to the next town. Bowen gets his gold, Draco (who's biding time until his destined death-which has a lot to do with that Einon transplant) will stay alive.
Obviously, this story won't be done until Bowen and Draco rid England of the nasty Einon so that William the Conqueror can force everyone to take French lessons. But national liberation is a long time coming. "Dragonheart," written by Charles Edward Pogue (from an "original story" by Pogue and Patrick Read Johnson), alternates between dull and ludicrous. At one point, Bowen informs Draco he wants to revenge himself on the dragon who gave new life to that royal tyrant. Apparently, Bowen, Knight of Duuuh, doesn't realize both dragons have the same distinctive voice and sense of humor. No wonder he's hurting for work.
There's undeniable pleasure in watching the dragon swoop, snort and speak Scottish. ("I'm tired of lurrrrking in holes and shhhkulking in darknesssh," complains Draco.) But most of the time, this movie is the wrong kind of draggin'. The battle scenes, with extras in cheap chain mail or peasant tatters, resemble outtakes from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." And Peter Postlethwaite is simply irritating as a storytelling monk who follows Bowen around, rapturously recounting the knight's life story. Instead of extolling Bowen, he should be jerking his thumbs down at this terrible movie.
DRAGONHEART (PG-13) - Contains battlefield violence and minor sexual situations.
'Dragonheart': Ye Same Olde, Same Olde
By Rita Kempley
Camelot is dead, way dead in "Dragonheart," a maudlin medieval fable befitting the post-Jackie O Auction Age. Traditional values-known herein as the Old Code-have all but been abandoned by the upper classes, and the peasants are revolting. Even the local dragon, Draco (voice by Sean Connery), is disenchanted by the sorry state of the once and future kingdom. Then again, maybe it's just dragon heartburn.
Draco, whose breath stinks of the dragon-slayer flesh stuck between his teeth, dines primarily upon neighborhood sheep. He eats people only in self-defense, explains the glittering, winged lizard. A charming sort with a Scottish brogue and droll sense of humor, Draco is the stellar feature of this ambitious but pokey hodgepodge of Celtic myth, kilt epic and buddy movie.
And no wonder. Producer Raffaella De Laurentiis, who inherited her father's taste for hokey, garish sagas, seems to have blown the budget on the dragon, created by the dino-wizards of "Jurassic Park." The story's scale calls for pageantry, but director Rob Cohen ("Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story") must make do with the Eastern European scenery, a few chintzy sets and a minimum of extras-all beefy, baffled Slovaks pretending to be Brits.
Set in 10th-century England, the story is at its best when focused on the adventures of Bowen (Dennis Quaid), a knight-turned-dragon-slayer, and Draco, his former-quarry-turned-business-partner. Charles Edward Pogue's screenplay, however, wanders about like a strolling minstrel singing of wicked monarchs, morose queens and their miserable minions. And then there are ye olde lynes: "Peace, O knight of the Old Order, witness the wonder of an ancient glory."
Bowen, the aforementioned knight, first encounters the ancient dragon after his protege, Prince Einon (David Thewlis), is mortally wounded in a pitchfork rebellion against his late father, the evil king. The queen mother (Julie Christie), a member of a Celtic dragon-worshiping sect, begs Draco to save her son's life. Though this means giving Einon a piece of his own heart, Draco agrees, but only after the young prince promises to rule in accordance with the Old Code.
Alas, King Einon reneges on his oath big-time. Wrongly attributing the despotic transformation to Draco's poisonous influence, the grumpy knight rides off, vowing to rid the land of the scaly beasts. Twelve years pass before Bowen encounters Draco, now the last of his species, and the two enemies duel to a satisfying stalemate. Broadswords, brimstone and dragon loogies are involved.
Afterward, the rivals go into business bilking the villagers of yummy sheep and bags of gold. But in time they realize that they, too, are violating the Old Code, and turn their efforts toward ousting the despicable new king. Alas, Bowen discovers that Einon's death would also mean curtains for his beloved comrade in arms.
The battle scenes allow the airborne Draco to breathe fire and flap about the castle scaring Einon's men, but they're no match for the clangorous mayhem of "Braveheart" or even "Rob Roy." And Einon, a petulant ninny as portrayed by Thewlis, is clearly outclassed by the heroes. Quaid, who insists on hiding his abs, grin and other major assets, makes a plausible soldier of fortune-not that he should make a career of swashbuckling.
"Dragonheart," of course, is Connery's movie. Draco, designed with the actor in mind, not only sounds like Connery but shares many of his facial expressions. It's hard enough to steal a scene from Connery in the flesh, but absolutely impossible when the actor's grown 18 feet high and 43 feet long. Yet, like the mythological creatures it celebrates, the movie appears bound for extinction.
Dragonheart is rated PG-13 for battle scenes.