DVD Talk
Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise
Reviews & Columns
Reviews
DVD
TV on DVD
Blu-ray
International DVDs
Theatrical
Adult
Video Games

Features
Collector Series DVDs
Easter Egg Database
Interviews
DVD Talk Radio
Feature Articles

Columns
Anime Talk
XCritic.com
DVD Stalk
DVD Savant
High-Def Revolution
Silent DVD

discussion forum
DVD Talk Forum
Resources
DVD Price Search
Customer Service #'s
RCE Info
Links

DVDTalk Info
Review Staff
About DVD Talk
Advertise
Newsletter Subscribe
Join DVD Talk Forum
DVD Talk Feeds


Special Offer

Search: For:
Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Emperor's New Clothes
The Emperor's New Clothes
Paramount // PG // December 10, 2002
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted December 28, 2002 | E-mail the Author
Buy from Amazon.com
C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Rent It
E - M A I L
this review to a friend
P R I N T
Printer Friendly
The movie

The Emperor's New Clothes is a lot like a certain type of puffed pastries you'll sometimes find in bakeries. Round, golden around the edges, perhaps with an attractive glaze of frosting swirled over the top, so that when you bite into it, the first reaction is "mmm... sweet"; but on the second bite, you realize that it's bland-tasting and mostly air anyway. Such a film is The Emperor's New Clothes: superficially charming, but never living up to the promise of its surface.

The premise is entertaining enough: imagine that Napoleon (Ian Holm) had managed to escape from St. Helena, the British prison island where, in real history, he died a captive. With an ordinary sailor smuggled in to impersonate him for the British, Napoleon makes his way in disguise to the continent, with the intention of arriving to Paris and a legion of ardent (though hidden) supporters. But his plans don't quite work out the way he'd intended...

Unfortunately, it's not at all clear what was intended for the film, as The Emperor's New Clothes ventures tentatively in a variety of different directions but never commits to any. At one point it looks like a comedy of reversals: the commoner Eugene Lenormand and the aristocrat Napoleon Bonaparte each stumbling through the other's life. But this element, while it gives rise to a few of the film's best moments, is soon shifted aside. Several other plot developments begin to place the film in the "adventure" category, albeit a rather tongue-in-cheek adventure, as Napoleon faces one annoyance after another in his voyage home. Like the role-reversal element, however, this part of the story is used up and abandoned quickly. What's left?

It all seems to boil down to a character-based love story when Napoleon encounters the charming Pumpkin (Iben Hjejle), a recently widowed fruit merchant. Here we're asked to suspend a certain amount of disbelief in terms of Napoleon and Pumpkin's relationship. Honestly, the older man / younger woman pair is getting a bit overworked in film. When was the last time we saw a film that had a sixty-year-old woman having an affair with a twenty-year-old man... or if it did, didn't play it for laughs or disgust? Yet the same scenario with the older man and a younger woman is presented as completely normal; in The Emperor's New Clothes, didn't anyone consider that Pumpkin would more likely have seen the aged Napoleon as a father figure? Apparently not.

But though The Emperor's New Clothes maintains a reasonably consistent  focus on the relationship between Napoleon and Pumpkin at this point, the film remains diffuse and strangely ineffective, possibly because the first portion of the story didn't set up the right elements to make the second part of the story work. Ian Holm is quite convincing both as the determined Napoleon who wants to regain his empire and even as the "softer" Napoleon who wants only a happy home. However, Holm never manages to show any realistic tension between the two extremes: the ambitious Napoleon is "on" or "off," but there's no real sense of him as one personality struggling with conflicting desires.

It's here that we begin to notice how thinly sketched are Napoleon's ambitions, but it's unclear whether this is an intentional part of the film or not. On the one hand, The Emperor's New Clothes could be telling us that Napoleon is a tired old man who is only living up to the expectations of others in his desire to regain his empire, and that once freed from those expectations he can live the life he really wants. It's a nice theory, and it might have made for an interesting film, but I don't think it's what's actually going on in The Emperor's New Clothes; the opening scenes of Napoleon on St. Helena show no ambiguity in his ambitions. No, what I think happened is that the script is more suited to moments of light comedy than serious introspection, and the string of set-pieces that we get simply doesn't work as was intended. Perhaps if The Emperor's New Clothes had committed itself to a path of comedy, it might have developed some substance, but as it is, the film never really comes together.

The DVD

Video

The Emperor's New Clothes is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and is anamorphically enhanced. The main issue with the transfer is that the contrast is unsatisfactory: dimly-lit scenes look grayish and grainy, and very dark areas tend to go to solid black without detail. There's not much noise appears in the image, and it's free from print flaws, but a moderate amount of edge enhancement is visible. In daylight scenes, the image looks distinctly better, with nicely vivid colors and natural-looking skin tones.

Audio

Viewers have the choice of Dolby 5.1 or Dolby 2.0 soundtracks for The Emperor's New Clothes. The 5.1 track doesn't make much use of surround sound; it's clean and clear in general, which notches it up above average, but it doesn't contribute anything special to the audio experience. It does offer a fuller-sounding track than the 2.0, though. English subtitles are also available.

Extras

The Emperor's New Clothes is a completely bare-bones DVD, without even so much as a trailer.

Final thoughts

The Emperor's New Clothes is one of those films that has a certain amount of charm on the surface, but it swiftly evaporates upon closer examination. Ian Holm does his best as Napoleon, but the story and script just don't seem to give him what he needs. After waffling between being a drama and a comedy, between being an adventure story, a role-reversal, or a character-based tale, The Emperor's New Clothes never ends up with enough substance to achieve any real effect on the viewer. I'd suggest that viewers will want to rent this one at best, especially given that it's a fairly high-priced DVD with a merely adequate transfer and no special features.

Popular Reviews
1. Legend of Hell House
2. Pumpkinhead
3. All That Jazz
4. The Walking Dead: Season 4
5. Wilfred Season 3
6. Last Man Standing Season 1
7. Rebirth of Mothra / Rebirth of Mothra II / Rebirth of Mothra III - Vol
8. They Came Together
9. Space Raiders
10. Godzilla 2000


Special Offers
DVD Blowouts
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
Alien [Blu-ray]
Buy: $19.99 $9.99
8.
9.
10.
Special Offers
Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise
Copyright 2014 DVDTalk.com All Rights Reserved. Legal Info, Privacy Policy, Terms of Use