On the shelf since the Dark Ages of 2009, “All’s Faire in Love” uses the novel setting of a Renaissance Faire — in which performers and patrons alike celebrate ye olde age of plague, pestilence and bad dentistry — to restage the venerable summer-camp comedy, replete with romance, rivalries, cutthroat competition and a dramatic structure that seems positively medieval. Verily, this Scott Marshall-helmed production has several nutjob supporting performances that almost rescue its hackneyed plot, but there’s not enough consistent madness to keep the film from what will be a fleeting theatrical career, followed by entombment on homevid.
We’ve seen this kind of thing before; it was old when Bill Murray did it in “Meatballs.” Thrust together at the “All’s Faire in Love … Renaissance Faire” are several young adults, including Kate (Christina Ricci), a would-be actress who has rejected a big-bucks corporate job (in one of the more bizarre interview scenes ever) in favor of a three-week gig as a wench with her pal Jo (Louise Griffiths). Kate is a sensitive soul: “I just want to meet someone who’s exactly what they seem to be,” she says. Man, has she come to the wrong place. Meanwhile, Will (Owen Benjamin), a star college quarterback, has been sentenced to work at the fair by his irate lit teacher, Prof. Shockworthy (Cedric the Entertainer), who has had it up to here with privileged athletes not coming to class.
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The fair is ruled by a queen (Ann-Margret) who enforces a rigid social hierarchy and instigates her own brand of class warfare: The winners of the end-of-season competition will spend the following season as nobles; the losers become serfs. Folks like Jo and Rusty Crockett (a very good Matthew Lillard) are languishing among the peasantry, while the likes of the obnoxious Prince Rank (Chris Wylde) lord it over them. The stage is set for what becomes a rather tortured competition, in which the football player sings to his lady love and the village undergoes a social revolution. Getting there takes some time.
One of the bright spots amid this overlong and often painfully predictable escapade is David Sheridan, who as court jester Roy carries around a hand-puppet named “Horny the Unicorn” and makes himself insufferable at first, though his thoroughly unhinged persona, so in contrast with the otherwise mundane proceedings, becomes infectious. Also good is Wylde’s Prince Rank, who never steps out of character (except during a cell-phone call, which is itself a pretty good joke) and seems to be channeling every swashbuckling character actor from Basil Rathbone to Bill Nighy, with more than a soupcon of Bette Davis.
Benjamin’s Will, however, never quite gets into the swing of things, which makes him something of a drag. The romantic elements of the story have the fragrant charm of a three-day-old joint of mutton, and Cedric the Entertainer, whose character spends most of the movie encased in a suit of armor, may not have even been there, for all we know. Forsooth, one mightn’t blame him.
Production values are mixed, with the music cues (including Sweet’s “Little Willy” and C+C Music Factory’s “Gonna Make You Sweat”) particularly odd.