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The Emperor's New Clothes

review by Zach B.



MPAA Rated: PG (For Mild Language)

Running Time: 106 minutes

Starring: Ian Holm, Iben Hjeejle, Tim McInnerny

Screenplay by: Kevin Molony, Alan Taylor, Herbie Wave
Adapted From The Novel "The Death Of Napoleon" by: Simon Leys

Directed by: Alan Taylor


Studio: Paramount

Retail Price: $29.99

Features: None

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Surround, English Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selection (15 Scenes)

Released: December 10th, 2002



Was Napoleon really defeated and sent to St. Helena? Perhaps not, or so does "The Emperor's New Clothes" suggests. Based on the novel "The Death Of Napoleon" by Simon Leys, Napoleon Bonaparte (Ian Holm) switches places with an English commoner who looks like him by the name of Eugene Lenormand (Ian Holm as well). The plan is that once Lenormand reveals who he really is and when Napoleon arrives in Paris, France will once again take command to Napoleon. However, as you'd might expect, the best plans come undone when Napoelon's trip to Paris takes a detour at a different place while Lenormand enjoys his new role a bit too much.

I had heard about "The Emperor's New Clothes" when it first opened and was quite eager to see it. Don't be fooled though: this is not some educational flick to offer insight on "what if" so and so happened. As much as I enjoy alternate versions of history and that they can be entertaining in themselves, what makes "The Emperor's New Clothes" so special is that it doesn't take itself too seriously. It's actually a pretty light film, and yes, it actually is a romantic comedy.

There are so many inspired moments within the film that must be credited to the trio of screenwriters, that being Hervie Wave, Kevin Molony and Alan Taylor (who also directed the film). There are some pretty funny lines spoken and situations the characters get caught up in (love the pitstop at Waterloo annd Lenormand practicing to walk like Napoleon), but the film not only offers laugh, but this sense of innocent heart that it's hard to not get caught up in. The romantic elements do work quite well, while everything comes full circle very nicely and in an interesting fashion. It's definitely not only a nice twist on history, but "The Prince and The Pauper" story as well.

Alan Taylor does a great job directing the film. The pace works very nicely and the film feels very even. There are some nice shots, the costumes and props seem to be authentic for the time and in all, he really brings the viewer back to that time as if this was real history unfolding. Rachel Portman also delivers an outstanding, light and even joyous score that perfectly reflects the film. As far as the acting, Ian Holm is simply outstanding as Napoleon and his commoner counterpart Lenormand. This isn't the first time Holm has tackled the role, as he was the famous leader in a 1974 television mini-series and in "Time Bandits." He brings a great sense of dignity and warmth to each role, with solid mannerisms and strong delivery. Yet there are difference in his actions to tell each character apart. Holm always does fine work as far as I'm concerned, and this is one of his best roles in years. Supporting performances from Tim Mcinnerny and Iben Hjejle (as the love interest) are also quite good.

"The Emperor's New Clothes" is definitely a film that is one of a kind, and probably did deserve a much wider audience than the small theatrical release it receieved during 2002. While the film offers an alternate version of historical events, it is quite entertaining, takes new directions in its storytellings but it does stay true to the events of history in developing Napoleon and the political climate of the time.


The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen for "The Emperor's New Clothes" isn't anything special, but looks pretty nice. I didn't notice any shimmering, noise and only the slightest bit edge halos here and there, something I've seen quite often lately on Paramount transfers. Unfortuantely, this transfer is a bit inconsistent. Some of the more illustrious shots (mainly exteriors and the boat out on sea) look quite nice, but others are very dark and murky. Some scenes are also drenched in grain, while others are quite sharp. Scratches, dirt pieces, blemishes, nicks and all sorts of marks appear throughout which gets annoying. Fleshtones are decent and so is color saturation, while detail holds u but isn't anything to get excited about. There's also no edge enhancment to boot. The transfer has pros and it has cons, which sorta even things out.


The English 5.1 Dolby Digital is also not exactly home theater reference, but certainly works nicely in the context of the film. Even if there is a lot of talking and that this is a comedy, the surrounds do hold up. When rain comes down it does feel rather natural, people shouting from the back sounds as if there is someone behind you, footsteps sound quite true and when the boat creaks from side to side it feels as if you're rocking along with it. The waves on the sea also sound quite good. Dialogue is quite good and Rachel Portman's score works nicely through the channels. There's not much use of the .1 LFE, but it isn't too integral to the movie. In all, a solid mix with good dynamics and high fidelity. Also included are English subtitles, English closed captions and an English Dolby Surround track.


It's hard for the special features to be rated when there's nothing. Too bad there's nothing.


A charming, even quirky little film that is utterly delightful, "The Emperor's New Clothes" is a must see and worth checking out, even if you don't happen to know much about European history. Unfortuantley, the DVD does not have any supplements, the transfer is a bit murky and the 5.1 Dolby Digital mix, while suitable, doesn't break new ground. It's a must buy if you know you'll watch it over and over again, but for the rest of us, a $29.99 list price is quite steep but it does warrant a rental.