I’ve got kind of a soft spot for James Franco. I don’t know why—his acting’s questionable, his charisma’s nearly nonexistent, and his best performance to date is a so-so turn as Spider-Man’s Pal™ Harry Osborn in Spider-Man.
I’ve also got an affinity for mediocre director Kevin Reynolds (Waterworld, Count of Monte Cristo)—though I know exactly why: His Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was my Favoritest Movie Ever when I saw it, approximately 723 times, at age 11.
Ostensibly, the film that’s brought the two together, Tristan & Isolde, is based on an Arthurian myth that’s even been opera-ized by Wagner. History and opera nerds aside, it’s doubtful anyone will even recognize Tristan & Isolde’s pedigree; my ill-educated hunch is that the film bears little resemblance to whatever it is that it’s based upon. Any story that’s held up for so long can’t have much in common with this wholly forgettable film.
Tristan (Franco, totally flat but still kind of likable) is an English warrior who serves Marke (Rufus Sewell), his father figure and lord. Meanwhile, Isolde (Sophia Myles) is a hot-but-boring Irish princess, and via events both tiresome and ridiculous, Tristan briefly visits Ireland and hooks up with Isolde. Some more tiresome/ridiculous stuff later, Isolde ends up moving to England… but she’s now promised to Marke. So our star-cross’d lovers end up living in the same castle, pouting and lovingly gazing, kept apart by loyalty and politics and….
Ah, fuck it, because Tristan & Isolde is not only boring, it’s also just kind of goofy. Despite its attempts to be some sort of unrequested amalgamation of Braveheart and Romeo and Juliet, it just ends up feeling like the WB decided to do a period costume drama. The film’s Irish and English locations are gorgeous, but in a too-slick, airbrushed sort of way; the shallow characters and soapy emotions feel the same. Hey, Kevin Costner’s hardly working anymore—why don’t he and Reynolds team up for a Robin Hood 2: KING of Thieves? At least with Robin Hood, Reynolds’s goofiness was fun, not tedious.