The Emperor’s New Clothes

The Emperor’s New Clothes

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If you think Elvis, Tupac and Biggy Smalls are still alive, you’re likely to swoon over Alan Taylor’s trivial piece of historical revisionism, The Emperor’s New Clothes. Looks like Napoleon (Ian Holm) may not have died on St. Helena in 1821 after all. Trading places with a common drunk, the Emperor makes his way back to Paris and finds love with a common woman named Pumpkin (Iben Hjejlie), who sells melons and gourds to the local community without much of marketing plan. Over in St. Helena, Napoleon’s body double farts, drinks and thinks of penetrating Poland, all the while putting on a convincing show for the stodgy British troops outside his window. Holm is predictably effective in his double role yet this is a solo act for the master thespian. As adapted from Simon Leys novel The Death of Napoleon, The Emperor’s New Clothes has relatively little to say about the film’s gauche Napoleon doppelganger finding vengeance in isolation and the real emperor finding his spirit amid the poor. While Rachel Portman’s score may effectively eschew the nauseating fairy-tale whimsy of Chocolat, the film’s tedious pacing and Taylor’s perpetually morose color palette is nowhere up to par. The director mostly plays it straight, turning Leys’s fable into a listless climb down the social ladder. An oblivious Taylor even fails to have fun with the irony of an entire country forgetting what their Emperor once looked like.

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DVD
Distributor
Paramount Classics
Runtime
107 min
Rating
PG
Year
2001
Director
Alan Taylor
Screenwriter
Kevin Malony, Alan Taylor, Herbie Wave
Cast
Ian Holm, Iben Hjejle, Tim McInnerny, Tom Watson, Nigel Terry, Murray Melvin, Eddie Marsan, Hugh Bonneville, Clive Russell