Ian Holm, now Sir Ian Holm is one of the great actors of our day. He can play comedy and drama equally well. His dual role in The Emperor’s New Clothes, along with his new honorific, invites comparison to the great Sir Alec Guinness (who took on eight roles in Kind Hearts and Coronets).
Je Suis Napoleon
PG for language
The premise and the hook of The Emperor’s New Clothes tell you all you need to know about this lightweight historical comedy. It delivers exactly what it promises.
The premise is that Napoleon Bonaparte didn’t really die in exile. Napoleon’s trusted aides and advisors recruited a French peasant to take his place on St. Helena, while the real emperor returned to France to reclaim his place at the head of the country.
The hook is that our peasant Eugene likes the life of an exiled emperor so well that he refuses to give up the charade. Until he declares himself a fraud, the real Napoleon can’t come forward; he must continue to live as the peasant Eugene.
In the meantime, Napoleon relies on the kindness of a war widow, Pumpkin (Iben Hjejle), who sells melons and takes in boarders to pay the rent. There is even room for a simple romance to develop between Pumpkin and “Eugene.”
A Stroll Around the Park
Holm really is outstanding. He makes an excellent slightly comedic Napoleon (he also played Napoleon in Time Bandits). Holm is able to convey military authority and balance it with a hint of excitable neurosis. When a little more comedy is called for, the camera steps in and makes the grand emperor short.
But Holm’s presence aside, there is no substance to The Emperor’s New Clothes. There is no moral and no message. It is neither extremely funny, nor extremely touching (nor is it extremely boring). Not even Sir Alec Guinness could have made it memorable.
The Emperor’s New Clothes is just a cute little story with a meandering pace and a bemused countenance. It’s a stroll around the park on Sunday.