It's devoutly to be hoped that the British novel from which Alan Taylor's The Emperor's New Clothes is adapted—The Death of Napoleon by Simon Leys—has more going for it than the movie. The conceit is that Napoleon (Ian Holm) never really died in exile on the island of Elba. Instead, the imperious old bugger switches identities with an uppity deckhand (also played by Holm) and hauls off to Paris, where he shacks up with a proletarian wench who goes by the name of Pumpkin (High Fidelity's Iben Hjejle); deploys his strategic skills toward marketing her watermelons (I'm not making this up); and goes about with his hair combed forward, expecting to be treated like royalty. From time to time, the movie ambles back to the island, where the cheeky deckhand has gotten so used to the royal treatment that—when the time comes for the real Napoleon to take back his throne—the impostor refuses to give up the job.
Holm, whose stature always exceeds his size, is as good as he can be under the circumstances. Hjejle is lovely to behold, and the movie is beautifully lit in Dutch Masters gray. Other than that, The Emperor's New Clothes is a great big snore that belabors its anti-imperial message with a shovel. How like the English to try to cut a Frenchman down to size—and, in this case, how very beside the historical point.
Lovely and Amazing was written and directed by Nicole Holofcener; produced by Anthony Bregman, Eric D'arbeloff and Ted Hope; and stars Brenda Blethyn, Catherine Keener, Emily Mortimer and Raven Goodwin. Now playing at Edwards University, Irvine; The Emperor's New Clothes was directed by Alan Taylor; written by Kevin Molony, Taylor and Herbie Wave, based on the novel The Death of Napoleon by Simon Leys; produced by Uberto Pasolini; and stars Ian Holm and Iben Hjejle. Now playing at Edwards University, Irvine.