Black Knight

2001, Movie, PG-13, 95 mins


Comparisons to Mark Twain's much-filmed A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court are both inevitable and highly unflattering to this often painfully unfunny fish-out-of-water saga. Jamal Walker (Martin Lawrence), who's employed by a tacky medieval theme park, is less a character than a collection of mildly annoying comedic ticks. One morning, following a (mercifully) brief flossing montage that accompanies the opening credits, Jamal takes a tumble into the park's polluted moat. The next thing the audience knows, he's in 14th-cenury England, although for some reason — most likely bad screenwriting — it takes Jamal himself about thirty minutes to figure this out. The rest of the film is an utterly predictable set of misadventures in which Jamal helps lead a rebellion against a tyrannical king (Kevin Conway) and basically teaches every-medieval-body how to get down with their bad selves. The putative high point in this regard comes when he leads the court musicians in a charmless sackbutt and krumhorn version of Sly and the Family Stone's "Dance to the Music." Jamal also joins forces with dissolute knight Sir Knolte (Tom Wilkinson), inspiring him to sober up and reclaim his ideals, sleeps with the king's comely daughter, Princess Regina (Jeannette Weegar), and finds true romance with proto-feminist Victoria (Marsha Thomason). Lawrence's constant mugging will probably strike most non-fans as pretty unbearable, so it's a good thing the film's ill-used but ever-professional UK cast, particularly Vincent Regan as head villain Lord Percival, play it totally straight at all times. The lame and apparently tacked-on ending (which seems to crib footage from 2000's GLADIATOR), suggests the rather terrifying prospect of a Roman-era sequel. Five words: Be afraid, be very afraid. leave a comment --Steve Simels

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