IF YOU plan to see "Ladyhawke," then don't read the reviews, not even this one. Everything you learn about the movie will diminish your enjoyment, so let it cast its own spell. Me, I get paid for this, so I'll write on. Should you disregard all warnings, throw caution to the wind as it were, and read along, I promise to be brief and largely clandestine.
"Ladyhawke," then, is a wondrous, chivalric adventure with all the usual ingredients -- fair maidens, bold knights, swordfights and the foul incantations of evil sorcerers. The story also includes elements from the ballet "Swan Lake" and French legends of lycanthropy.
Dutch actor Rutger Hauer, the replicant of "Blade Runner," plays the black knight Etienne Navarre, with Michelle Pfeiffer as Navarre's enigmatic lover Isabeau. Matthew Broderick also stars as Phillipe Gaston, a youthful pickpocket who escapes the dungeons of Aquila to become the comic narrator of this authentic 13th-century fairytale.
(If you are still reading and still plan to see the movie, at least skip this paragraph.) Navarre, riding a black charger and traveling with a hawk, compels Phillipe to show him the way back into Aquila. There the knight will avenge himself against the corrupt bishop who cursed his life with the enchanting Isabeau.
(Start reading again here.) Pfeiffer lends radiance and grace to an already luminous and lovely work, photographed by gifted Vittorio Storaro. Hauer lends a larger-than-life scale, and Broderick brings humor and warmth, particularly in his practiced asides. Like a medieval Beaver Cleaver, he is irrepressibly good-natured and wide-eyed.
Phillipe has a personal relationship with us and God. And while he is a great believer in what he can't see, he doesn't particularly want to rub elbows with the unseen. Unlike Phillipe, we very much want to be in on the supernatural goings on, so well orchestrated by Richard Donner, who as the director of "Superman" and "The Omen," is no stranger to the mysteries of transfiguration or good and evil in magical extremes.
"Ladyhawke" is a happy, scenic, sumptuous film. And despite an incongruous modern score and an over-extended finale, it is the most congenial spot for happy ever-aftering at the movies since King Arthur lost "Camelot."
LADYHAWKE (PG-13) -- At area theaters.