Adventure story 'Krull' offers myth, romance, and howling cliche

Krull is being promoted as a family movie, but I think most adults will be slow to swallow such time-worn stuff in yet another new package. That leaves children as its natural audience, though there's more than enough sword-slinging and fang-bearing to justify its PG rating.

The story blends myth, romance, and howling cliche. The hero, a handsome young prince, must rescue his bride from the clutches of a monster. He faces all kinds of tried-and-true obstacles, from quicksand to sorcery. His helpers include a wizard, a Wise Old Man, a gang of likable ruffians, a friendly cyclops who mopes a lot, and a magical object called a glave, or something like that. There's also a comical sidekick who seems to have wandered in from a Monty Python movie. His jokes are never, ever funny.

A literary myth-monger like John Barth might have fun parsing ''Krull,'' so stuffed is it with classical story ingredients, all hurled at the audience as if they were fresh and new. It might also be appealing to movie fans of a certain age: At times a pale nostalgia washed over me as hokey scenes recalled '50s relics like ''Ivanhoe'' and ''The Vikings'' and even (preserve us!) those dubbed Hercules epics that even we kids knew were silly. If there's an Oscar for deja vu next year, ''Krull'' should win.

Still, director Peter Yates deserves credit for pitching the story straight, with no effort to camp it up or apologize for it. I'd rather see more major works from him, like his inventive ''Bullitt'' a few years back. But when faced with a piddling project like ''Krull,'' he knows how to treat it with energy and conviction. That's the mark of a pro.

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