The Knight and the Princess Parent Guide
This film boasts the most boring protagonist ever to grace the big screen.
Parent Movie Review
As the first feature length animated film produced in Egypt, The Knight and the Princess occupies a unique place in cinematic history. It was made with a purpose: in the words of Alabbas Bin Alabbas, founder of Alsahar Animation, “Arab stories are better told from an Arab perspective by Arab talents…It is self expression of our history and culture and artistic point of view.” The goals are lofty. If only the film were fun to watch.
Don’t get me wrong, I love watching (and reading) tales from other countries, and if any culture needs to be better understood by the rest of the world, it’s that of the Arab world. Sharing the stories, heroes and world views of the Middle East – all of this could be accomplished (at least in part) by movies that are able to engage a mass audience. But The Knight and the Princess is unlikely to break out of the cultural silo in which it was created to engage with the broader world.
This feature is based on the true story of Muhammad Bin Al Qasim, a 7th century hero from what is now southern Iraq, who fought off pirates and helped conquer part of Pakistan for the Muslims. In the film, Al Qasim is an idealistic fifteen year old who begins his life of derring-do by heading off to rescue Muslim women and children who are being held hostage. In the process, he buries a martyred friend, becomes a skilled military strategist, and falls in love with a princess. But personal happiness can’t get in the way of a man’s duty, and Al Qasim is soon trying to evade another royal marriage while also preparing to defend the kingdom against the evil King Daher the Great and his even more evil priest.
There the seed of a watchable film here, but it’s smothered by the production’s many flaws. The most egregious is the lack of character development, even amongst principal figures in the story. Al Qasim might be the most boring protagonist ever to grace the big screen: he’s honourable, upright, devout, clever, and dutiful. And that’s it. He doesn’t change or grow or overcome any weaknesses over the course of the story. Oddly enough, the only characters who experience personal growth are the two demons (or jinn) controlled by the wicked priest. They alone crack jokes, examine their lives, and consider alternate destinies. They’re not very funny but at least they provide a bit of tension in the story. Nobody else does.
Also distracting from the adventure tale is the animation. I appreciate that this movie is a real achievement, representing twenty years’ of building a studio from ground zero in an area with no tradition of animation. But the results still aren’t good. The characters don’t sit or walk naturally and watching Princess Lola Benny sit and pose with her chest thrust forward makes me want to send her to a chiropractor. I’ve seen Saturday morning cartoons with more realistic character motion. (Bugs Bunny, for instance…) I understand that the animation studio was determined to create an all-Arab film, but there’s no shame in partnering with a foreign studio that has the necessary technical skill to create a more polished product.
If you’re willing to crawl through the boring runtime and are considering this film for family viewing, I must warn you that there is no English dub for the movie. There are subtitles but those don’t usually appeal to kids. There is also a lot of military violence, some quite disturbing, including scenes of men on fire. Religious parents might also be unhappy with repeated scenes of a dark ritual that calls upon an unseen demon god. But none of these issues are as serious as the movie’s biggest flaw: it’s excruciatingly dull.Directed by Bashir El Deek. Starring Aiemzy, Mohamed El Dafrawy, Lekaa El Khamisy, Hani Eskander. Running time: 97 minutes. Theatrical release April 2, 2021. Updated April 10, 2021
Watch the trailer for The Knight and the Princess
The Knight and the Princess
Rating & Content Info
Why is The Knight and the Princess rated TV-PG? The Knight and the Princess is rated TV-PG by the MPAA for fear, substances
Violence: Men are seen dying of a plague. Armed pirates board a ship containing women and children. Women are attacked by pirates and are taken captive. People are possessed by demons. There are scenes of a naval battle involving flaming arrows, men in flames, burning ships, men jumping overboard and sinking vessels. A character suggests poisoning someone’s food. A man accidentally burns his backside in a kitchen mishap. A man grabs a woman by the hair. Men fight with swords and punch one another. A man dies saving a character from an arrow. A character throws a spear. A demon gets punched in the nose. There’s mention of a lost battle and dead soldiers. There are several scenes of a priest summoning dark manifestations. Flames come out of a man’s eye as part of a ritual. There are scenes of Arabs being attacked: women being grabbed, a man dragged behind a horse, and towns being razed. There is a brief scene of Nazis marching in front of Hitler. Characters are stabbed with arrows and a spear. There are scenes of combat involving siege engines, arrows, flaming projectiles, and naval bombardment. A city’s walls are shown collapsing. Soldiers are ambushed by archers; blood is seen spurting from wounds. A man is stepped on by an elephant. There are battle scenes involving sword fights.
Sexual Content: A man jokingly tries to kiss another man. There are mentions of an unconsummated marriage.
Profanity: There are fewer than ten profanities, consisting of terms of deity and minor swear words.
Alcohol / Drug Use: A man drinks a jug of what is presumably alcohol. A man is shown intoxicated. Characters talk about drugging other people so they will be “wasted”.
Page last updated April 10, 2021
The Knight and the Princess Parents' Guide
This film occurs during the expansion of Islam across the Middle East and central Asia. For more information about this era, check these links:
Khan Academy: The spread of Islam
BBC: Early rise of Islam (632-700)
Related home video titles:
While most animated films come from Hollywood studios, there are exceptions. Bombay Rose is a meticulously hand painted animated movie that was made in India and tells the story of two star-crossed lovers in the city of Bombay (Mumbai).
Chinese studios have invested heavily in animation and have produced two movies that have broken through in international markets. Abominable tells a story set in China while Over the Moon uses a Chinese legend for a tale set in space.
Two Irish films also enjoy culturally distinct design esthetics. The Book of Kells is based on medieval Irish legends and Wolfwalkers is a tale about people who can change into wolves and is set in the 17th century.
It is possible to make movies about real people whose personalities are enriched by their faith and their flaws. For instance, Amazing Grace and Harriet both tell stories of Christian abolitionists, namely William Wilberforce and Harriet Tubman, and manage to make them feel like real, complex people, not simple cardboard cutouts.