The witless and uninspired ascent of David Ward's 'King Ralph'

February 15, 1991|By Stephen Wigler

'King Ralph' Starring John Goodman, Peter O' Toole, Camille Coduri and John Hurt.

Directed by David Ward.

Released by Universal.

Rated PG.

* If your periodontist has a sense of humor then spending 9minutes in his chair might be as much fun as "King Ralph."

This movie about a Las Vegas lounge pianist who ascends to the throne of England has about three good scenes -- all of which are included in the trailer that has been making the rounds in local theaters and on TV. This is a thin movie after you've seen the entire royal family electrocuted (the accident that brings John Goodman's Ralph to the throne), seen Ralph break a priceless Ming vase with a bowling ball, and heard and seen him play Little Richard's "Good Golly, Miss Molly!" on an 18th century fortepiano at a ceremonious dinner of state.

The plot of "King Ralph" is at least as old as (and probably older than) the plays of Plautus and Terrence. Through some accident of fate or birth a lower-class lout becomes king (usually for a day) and causes all sorts of social and economic consternation. This was essentially the stuff of the successful "Caddyshack," which exposed the upper-class WASP nightmare of discovering that Rodney Dangerfield had somehow become a member of one's country club.

But writer-director David Ward has done next to nothing to illuminate the themes of wealth and class that are possible when a Ralph Kramden-like character becomes King of England. Peter O'Toole (as Ralph's adviser, Sir Cedric), Camille Coduri (as the lower-class girl for whom Ralph falls) and John Hurt (as the conniving lord who would like the throne for his own) are wasted in this witless film.

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