Picture it: Weymouth Ma, February 15, 1991. One of my 6th grade classmates asks me if I want to go with him to see the new movie “King Ralph.” Looking for any excuse to get away from my uncle and aunt, I said “yes.”
The following afternoon my friend Matt, (my aunt’s youngest brother) calls me to ask if I’d like to go with him and his friends to the old Quincy theaters to see a movie called “King Ralph.” I think I shouted “yes” before he even finished asking the question.
I know I shouldn’t like “King Ralph” as much as I do, but I can’t help it. There’s just something about this comedy that I’ve always enjoyed. Maybe it’s John Goodman’s charm, or the movie’s great supporting cast featuring Peter O’Toole, Camille Coduri, Richard Griffiths, and John Hurt.
In “King Ralph” John Goodman plays a Las Vegas lounge singer who becomes the king of England when the entire royal family is electrocuted in a freak accident while posing for a family photograph. Although Goodman is American, he’s the closest blood relative they can find.
The rest of the film features Goodman’s Ralph getting into all sorts of shenanigans: Ralph hits a home run with a cricket bat; he sits in the royal bath wearing his crown and scarfing chocolates; he injures a dog while pheasant hunting; and falls asleep during meetings with the British Prime Minister. And then there’s his love of strip joints and Burger King.
All the while, those around him try to keep Ralph in line with little luck. Peter O’Toole serves as the King’s private secretary, Sir Cedric Willingham, but even he can only get so far educating Ralph.
To many it was probably strange seeing the great Peter O’Toole in a comedy like this, but I look at it this way: the movie needed someone as well established and respected as Peter O’Toole to pull off this role. If the filmmakers had cast Benny Hill in the role, it wouldn’t have worked.
Camille Coduri stars as Ralph’s girlfriend Miranda Greene, a failed stripper who is just trying to earn money for her family up north. She also tries to keep Ralph out of trouble, and looks out for him by teaching him British royal history.
But this isn’t an easy task with John Hurt starring as the Percival Graves. He pays Miranda a ton of money to be seen with Ralph in the hopes of getting Ralph removed from the throne, so that he can claim the throne himself.
And again, just like with Peter O’Toole’s casting, the movie needed someone who would own this role. Only John Hurt could have played Graves with the just the right mix of charm and evil.
Does “King Ralph” rank up there with the greatest comedy films of all time? No, of course not. But I saw this movie twice in the theater because I loved the cast, the premise, and because it taught me a little something about how British royalty works.
More importantly, in 2005 when “Doctor Who” finally returned to tv screens, I was one of the few people who were able to shout at the tv, “That’s the girl from King Ralph!”