A rousing, thoroughly enjoyable adventure film, If I Were King plays fast and loose with historical fact and truth, but it's so entertaining that few people are likely to care. The basic premise -- that Louis XI would appoint a rag-tag poet as king for a week -- is pure fiction, but it's the kind of high concept that, when it works, pays off with big dividend, and it certainly works here. Credit for this must be spread around, starting with Preston Sturges and Brandon Fleming's delightful, quick-witted screenplay. Sparkling dialogue flows like French champagne, especially when Ronald Colman and Basil Rathbone have the chance to tear up the screen together, and the script contains plenty of action and drama, as well as ample opportunity for opulence. Director Frank Lloyd takes shrewd advantage of all these elements, never letting the opulence outweigh dramatic necessity, and balancing the humor with moments of genuine emotion. The cast is also first-rate, with top honors going to Colman and Rathbone. Colman is the anchor that holds the film together, and he delivers a captivating, immensely appealing performance that is invaluable. Yet Rathbone, almost unrecognizable beneath a heavy makeup job, still manages to upstage the star, creating one of the most delightfully evil villains the screen has ever known. King is a marvelous film, swashbuckling adventure at its best.
by Craig Butler review