by Matt Smith
So this is the first time I’ve written about a children’s movie. And it’s also the first time that Val Kilmer shows up for an uncredited cameo. So weird. Anyway, here we go – George and the Dragon.
Starring James Purefoy as George and Piper Perabo as the princess-in-peril he must save, George and the Dragon is a light-hearted children’s action-comedy. Coming home from the crusades, George and his friend Tarik the Moor (Michael Clarke Duncan) arrive in England as El Cabillo (an uncredited Val Kilmer), a fierce bandit, is tearing across the land. Tarik splits from George to go and find El Cabillo, and George heads home to purchase land from the King Edgar (Simon Callow). Before he will agree with the deal, however, the king charges George with finding his missing daughter, Princess Luma. Before you know it, we’re off on a grand adventure in the English countryside to track down a princess reportedly abducted by a dragon.
Count me surprised, but I actually enjoyed this. As far as a kid’s movie goes, it’s not bad at all, and it has all the familiar ingredients. Cornball humor and boisterous swordplay each play a prominent part in the proceedings. And Purefoy, who has since made a name for himself in various swordplay action epics like Solomon Kane and Ironclad and was recently seen in Fox’s The Following, displays a great sense of comic timing and his scenes with Perabo play well.
Once she’s found, George has to deal with the fact that Luma has deemed herself the protector of a dragon’s egg until it hatches, and he is forced to drag her and her egg around until they reach home. Thrown into the mix is the warlord — — (Patrick Swayze), who is betrothed to the princess but whom she does not wish to marry. It’s a familiar plot point and overly cliched in that the prince is also evil (not just undesirable), but kid’s fare can get away with repetitive bare-bones structure.
Speaking of which, one comparison I kept making in the first half of the film was to The Princess Bride. Not that this film even compares, but it as a similar tone though clearly targeted toward a much younger audience. I dug it and admired what it was going for…
…Oh, right, that Kilmer role. Well, he basically shows up and starts a swordfight with Tarik at the beginning of the film and then El Cabillo rides off leaving Tarik’s helmet as a grave marker. I thought that maybe this had actually happened, lending a darker streak to the child’s fare that lay ahead; fairy tales are often dark in their original tellings, after all. Alas, a twist at the end reveals that Tarik has in fact slain El Cabillo and taken up his mantel as a notorious bandit.
So, literally, Kilmer plays a bit part in a kid’s flick that was fun just because he bothered to show up. He’s more energetic in his ninety seconds here than he was in the miserable Blind Horizon, and there was part of me that hoped he would stick around ‘til the end. Alas, it was not meant to be.
Recommended for kids or anyone who enjoys this type of flick. Some good special effects on what is obviously a tight budget (especially for 2004), and some fun performances. The late Michael Clarke Duncan shines as the Moor and James Purefoy is a solid comedic lead. Enjoyable fare for the family.
The Komplete Val Kilmography (2003-2012) is a twice weekly column that will run through the summer. I will be viewing and writing about each film Val Kilmer appeared in (as long as I can track down a copy of it) in the past decade.