Who here remembers when, a little while back, in my Curse of the Dragon Slayer review, I mentioned a certain unnerving tendency of cheap fantasy movies to star washed-up Battlestar Galactica actors? Most of you probably don’t, but for those loyalists out there, you’ll recall that I did mention that. It isn’t unfounded – not one bit – and while the character Helo seems to be the most subject to this curse, today we’re getting a special treat. The movie is called Merlin and the Book of Beasts, and it stars James Callis, better known as Dr. Gaius Baltar. And he. That’s not to say that this movie isn’t just terrible in general – it is. Goodness gracious me, it’s terrible. Its only strength is its scenery and the fact that Merlin’s acting will have you busting a gut laughing for the film’s entire runtime. So, gosh, where do I start? This takes place a generation after the Camelot age, featuring Merlin (hahahahaha), an old-ass Sir Galahad, Tristan Jr. (the son of Tristan and Isolde), Lysanor (Galahad’s son), and Princess Avlynn (the daughter of Arthur Pendragon and Guinevere). As for how Avlynn is actually pronounced, well, your guess is as good as the rest of the cast’s. Avelinn…? Avlin…? Avulviln…. No…. It’s gotta be one of these…. Ah well. Moving on. The plot centers on a dark sorcerer known as “The Arkadian” who’s been using an evil-ass mystical book called the Book of Beasts (see, right in the title) to summon forth lots of pseudo-Arthurian or otherwise unrelated monsters (such as Medusa!) to do his bidding. He also somehow creates a new shadowy Camelot (don’t ask me, I don’t know). Anyway, figuring that there’s only one guy capable of handling this situation, Avlviynn (who is supposed to be youthful and virginal, but is in her 30’s and looks it), while dutifully playing to the “wear-comically-large-helmet-until-the-time-comes-to-reveal-I’m-female” trope, gathers the “Knights of the Round Table” (an absolute mockery of that title) and goes to seek our Merlin (who’s an even worse mockery of that name). Merlin, as I mentioned earlier, is played by Battlestar Galactica‘s own James Callis, and it’s very nearly worth watching this movie just for him. Not because he’s good, of course. His performance, in fact, makes me absolutely sure of three things: The person who watched his audition and gave him the O.K. was drunk off his ass. James Callis does not care even slightly about his reputation. Callis has some kind of habit to support and/or is deep in debt to the mob. He does this… I can only call it a voice, but it’s so much more than that. It’s like this husky, growling, jowly bark that occasionally slips into a bizarre pseudo-fantastical quasi-Gaelic accent. It requires so much effort that you can frequently see him seem to daze off, the effort of keeping up the voice and also actually remembering his lines requiring too much of his energy to also include any kind of real acting. When he talks for more than a paragraph (all the time, like 40% of the movie is him monologuing) one’s mind begins to stray and the sounds he’s making begin to sound less like words and sentences, and more like a garbage disposal doing it’s damnedist to vomit out Jamie Bell. I actually have a few jokes that I have prepared for this occasion, in an attempt to sufficiently describe the delightful train wreck that is Callis’s performance. I’ll let you decide which one is the best. It’s like Clifford the Big Red Dog ate an entire box of Irish Spring while trying to do an impersonation of L. Ron Hubbard. Callis actually is a cylon, and if you open him up you’ll find a withered-up Warwick Davis in full Leprechaun attire. Callis got so into the role that he actually got a time machine and went to Arthurian times to meet Merlin and see how he spoke and acted. The leprous drunk claiming to be Merlin did not steer him true. Merlin – the first ever ancient Gaelic Punisher impersonator. All of this has happened before and hopefully won’t happen again. If you created an animated character based on his voice, it’d be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles villain. Or possibly the archenemy of the Power Rangers. Callis is attempting to cough up the Blarney Stone with each word, and gets increasingly frustrated with his continued failure. Hoo. Okay, I think I’ve mostly gotten it out of my system. Let’s move onward, not that anything particularly interesting happens in this. The Arkadian – spoilers! – turns out to be Mordred (the son of Arthur and Morgan Le Faye), who is extremely keen on getting jiggy with his half-sister, the obviously-older-than-him Avallin. In fact, it appears to be his only real motivation which raises the question of why all this nonsense is going on in the first place, since if he had just disguised himself (or you know, not revealed that he was her brother, since nobody knew in the first place) it probably could have worked out. But, nah, instead he chooses the “evil conquerer” route and endangers the kingdom. The only character who really does anything of note is Merlin himself, who, while he hilariously underwhelming in every way, is actually kind of badass when it comes to doing magic stuff (even if he appears to be slightly less skilled than the Arkadian). The actual fight scenes with the few monsters there are, of course, are laughable. The effects are… well, the effects are actually okay for a made-for-TV movie like this one, but they’re obviously still not any good. What about the other actors, you ask? Eh. They fade into the background. Elwynn is about as bland as a paper bag and the other knights aren’t much better (the most compelling member of the entire cast is probably Galahad, who does the “concerned-yet-proud dad” thing adequately). The quest is tiresome and, were it not for compulsively laughing at Merlin, would be almost unwatchably boring. Merlin dies a couple times, but it’s okay, he gets better. Wow, this is getting boring. I think I blew all my good material making fun of James Callis. On that note, I’ll try to wrap up. If you want to get your friends together, get drunk, poorly imitate a stupid voice for an hour and a half, and otherwise mock Gaius Baltar, this is the movie for you! If you want a movie that isn’t slow, boring, inane, poorly-acted, and generally exhaustive, then stay far, far away from Merlin and the Book of Beasts. You have been warned. See larger image Merlin & The Book Of Beasts [Blu-ray] New From: $6.69 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related 2 Responses Punk Faye July 26, 2014 He looked so high he probably thought he was a wizard. And his voice was like Irish Rorschach with laryngitis. Log in to Reply Alex Wolfe July 26, 2014 Irish Rorschach! Why didn’t I think of that?! Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.