Reviewed by: Douglas Downs
|Featuring:||Martin Lawrence, Tom Wilkinson, Kevin Conway, Jeannette Weegar, Marsha Thomason|
|Producer:||Arnon Milchan, Paul Schiff, Michael Green, Darryl Quarles|
|Distributor:||Twentieth Century Fox|
This Thanksgiving season in the U.S., I’m afraid President Bush may have pardoned the wrong turkey. Twentieth Century Fox’s late release of “Black Knight” puts it out of the running for the 2001 Turkey of the Year Awards, which is too bad because it sure would have received my vote.
Jamal Walker (Martin Lawrence) is a security guard at Medieval World theme park in L.A. It is at the intersection of Florence and Normandie (any plot clues yet?). He is ordered to clean the moat and discovers a shiny object in the midst of all the pollution. He falls into the murk and emerges into 14th century England.
Jamal (who is wearing a Kelly-green football jersey) is instantly mistaken for a Moor from Normandy (how original is that!). The king takes a liking to Jamal and gives him one of his women, Victoria (Marsha Thomason). Quicker than this shameless studio can do some scene stealing from the much better “A Knight’s Tale”, Walker has everyone dancing to Sly and the Family Stone’s “Dance to the Music”. In the course of time, our wanna-be hero uncovers a plot to kill the evil king (who maimes peasants for stealing) and return their beloved Queen to her throne. Along the way, Jamal graciously helps a poor alcoholic knight named Sir Knolte (Tom Wilkinson) recover his dignity (the only redeeming point of the film). Will the Black Knight show up and save the day? Will Jamal find his new flame Victoria in the future? Will Mark Twain roll over in his grave?
One of the things that made the viewing of this film a bit painful is that it received it’s inspiration from the 1889 Mark Twain Classic A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (one of my favorite time travel stories). Hollywood has recycled this classic several times since the first version was released in 1921 (directed by Emmett J. Flynn). My two favorite versions? The one that stars Bing Crosby; and Disney’s “A Kid in King Arthur’s Court.” From Whoopi to Will Rogers, many have given their spin on this delightful tale.
“Black Knight” may unfortunately need to be reclassified as a disaster film instead of a comedy. It has so many plot holes that I almost found myself looking for orange barrels in the theater. If you need to waste some time and money—then this is the film for you. Even as a film critic who gets in free to film showings, I still felt ripped-off. Chris Rock, who was originally cast for this film, really dodged the bullet on this one.
This loser suffers from many other problems as well. Maybe the $16.5 million paid to Lawrence didn’t leave much funding for anything else (like a good story). I had the feeling 20th Century Fox tried using Lawrence as a “laugh-effect” instead of the usual “special effect”: the audience will often forgive a poor story if a film has lots of eye-candy. But sadly, Martin’s humor is almost unforgivable: if you took sh*t and a** out of Martin’s dialogue—he would be almost speechless! There is also an all-to-real beheading and an abundance of crude sexual humor (including some scenes of pre-marital sex).
I know that some parents use the cinema as a reward for their children. Please don’t punish your family by taking them to see this turkey. The leftovers could make everyone ill.