The Big Knights
dir-scr Neville Astley, Mark Baker
prd Claire Jennings
voices Brian Blessed, David Rintoul, Alexander Armstrong, Timothy West, Prunella Scales, Scarlett Strallen, Summer Strallen, Morwenna Banks, Brian Sewell, John Sparkes, Gordon Kennedy, Kate Robbins, Enn Reitel
release UK 23.Oct.15
15/UK 1h10
The Big Knights
Into the woods: Boris and Morris escort the princesses

blessed west scales
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Big Knights This is a best-of compilation from the animated TV series about two riotously enthusiastic knights with "the height of two men, the weight of four, the strength of 16". With eight 10-minute episodes (13 were made) played back-to-back, the collection feels long even though it isn't. And adults will enjoy the humour much more than kids will.

In the land of Borovia, Sir Boris (Rintoul) and his brother Sir Morris (Blessed) are known for their heroic but destructive missions alongside their pets Sir Horace the dog and Sir Doris the hamster. In service of King Otto (West), whose daughters (Scarlett and Summer Strallen) often need rescuing or escorting, the knights dive into a series of adventures that generally leave a wake of chaos. Extra mischief is caused by their useless wizard Zabodon (Reitel) competing against efficient sorceress Abigail (Robbins) in the neighbouring kingdom of Queen Melissa (Scales).

Visually, this animation looks like it was drawn with magic markers, but the simplicity of the imagery adds to the surreal energy of the comedy. These stick figures have massive personalities that come through in every moment, from the hilariously exuberant bluster of Boris and Morris to the entitled aristocrats and fed-up peasants. The settings are also fiendishly witty, playing on the disparity between the rich and poor with modern-day touches and Pythonesque absurdity.

And the various adventures touch on big themes. Knights in Distress is a cautionary tale about cutting corners in building a hydroelectric plant. Alchemy is a story of greed and thievery. The Village Games is a hilarious look at how poor people bear the brunt of moneyed ambition. The Land of the Vampires plays with tourism, Clockwork Knights with government waste and Time Protonosphere with the nature of history itself. And the most gleefully nutty chapter is the last one, The Royal Escort, in which the spoiled princesses visit their eccentric aunties (Scales and Robbins) for a holiday no one dares speak of afterwards.

Yes, all of this is aimed at grown-ups rather than children. And even with hyperactive pacing and cheerfully wacky imagery, the bombastic title sequence tests the patience by repeating every 10 minutes. Still, creators Astley and Baker win us over as they work their own political frustration into these little gems, dropping pointed gags at every turn. And it's great to see them up on a big screen for a change. So in the end, we wish they'd made more than just 13 episodes.

cert u themes, violence 4.Oct.15

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© 2015 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall