The American King is a Good-man
Released back in 1991 and starring John Goodman and Peter O'Toole "King Ralph" is another one of those movies which has two sides, one which is hugely entertaining and the other which although is important ends up being just a little tedious. The good part of "King Ralph" is the very entertaining but extremely obvious fish out of water scenario featuring American lounge singer Ralph Jones and his unlikely succession to the throne, leading to all those issues surrounding him learning both how to be a King but also various elements of being English. Which means we get a succession of gags such as his confusion over what "Spotted Dick" is and how to greet people in an appropriate regal manner. But even though it is all very obvious it works and is what makes "King Ralph" a hugely enjoyable comedy even though much of it feels like a series of set piece gags,
When a bizarre accident ends up killing the whole British Royal family a mad genealogical search is conducted to find someone who is entitled to become King. The search brings forward a Las Vegas lounge singer called Ralph Jones (John Goodman - Always) who is immediately brought to Britain to take up his seat as King and learn all about what being a Royal means from the loyal Cedric (Peter O'Toole - Murphy's War). But unbeknown to Ralph, Lord Percival Graves (John Hurt - The Elephant Man) is scheming to arrange his downfall so that he can become the next King instead and will stop at nothing including using pretty showgirl Miranda (Camille Coduri - The Business) to dupe Ralph.
Much of what is enjoyable about "King Ralph" is down to the performance of John Goodman, who made this at the height of his "Roseanne" fame. He is perfect when it comes to being a lazy lounge singer but equally good when it comes to being the fish out of water, one who has a good heart. But it is also the supporting performances from Peter O'Toole as Sir Cedric Charles Willingham and the flustered Richard Griffiths as Duncan Phipps which help to make this side of the movie so good. The initial meeting between Ralph and Cedric is priceless and the shocked expression on Peter O'Toole's face, one of almost disdain, is for want of a better word brilliant.
But then there is the other side of the movie where they try to develop a storyline surrounding the scheming Lord Percival Graves attempt to dethrone Ralph so that he can succeed him to being King. The trouble is that although "King Ralph" needs this extra storyline, or second storyline as it comes across, it is when the movie focuses on this side that it loses a lot of the humour and almost jars with the fish out of water side. It has the knock on effect of being a little boring and causes it to lose the energetic momentum of the earlier scenes. Although saying that it does allow for the inclusions of a semi romantic storyline which is quite pleasant as Ralph falls for Miranda a would be showgirl from Soho.
Whilst this side of "King Ralph" has it's problems it still has some very entertaining performances especially from John Hurt who is marvellous as Lord Percival Graves in an almost Dick Dastardly manner, so much so you half expect him to be playing with his moustache as he schemes Ralph's downfall. Accompanying him is the always pleasant Leslie Phillips as Gordon Halliwell although it is very much a minor role for the star. The most pleasant performance though comes from the delightful and gorgeous Camille Coduri as Miranda, delivering a character which reminded me of a young Barbara Windsor, Wendy Richards and Amanda Barrie all rolled into one.
One thing which is amusing is watching this now because there is so much which dates "King Ralph" such as Punks watching for news on King Ralph on TV sets in the window of a Rumbelows electrical store, plus also the police cars are all those old long Rovers. There are also the recognizable faces in minor parts such as Joely Richardson as the deep voiced Princess Anna and Rudolph Walker as King Mulambon who is more recognizable these days as Patrick in "Eastenders".
What this all boils down to is that "King Ralph" is an entertaining but very much run of the mill light weight family comedy very typical of the sort of thing being released at the start of the 90s. The concepts of a fish out of water is nothing new, although having an American suddenly thrust into the world of royalty makes for some pleasantly entertaining set piece gags. It is very much the performance of John Goodman as King Ralph as well as Peter O'Toole's Sir Cedric which makes the movie so entertaining despite the flaws with the secondary storyline.