A comedic riff on "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court," "Black
Knight" is an obvious, tailor-made vehicle for popular actor Martin Lawrence.
Unlike the bouncy energy and humor of his 2000 hit, "Big Momma's House,"
however, it takes a while to find its footing, and then falls apart a
half-hour before it reaches the end. This leaves a middle portion that
does work fairly well, complete with some pretty funny gags and one-liners.
What surrounds these sporadic jokes is, at times, nearly unbearable.
Jamal Walker (Martin Lawrence) is a money-grubbing employee at an LA-based
theme park called Medieval World, which is about to go out of business
with the impending opening of the nearby Castle World. When he spots an
ornate medallion at the bottom of a pond he is cleaning up, reaching for
it causes him to be sucked back in time to the 14th-century. Coming upon
an enormous castle in the woods, Jamal is convinced that he has stumbled
onto the grounds of Castle World, even addressing himself to King Leo
(Kevin Conway) as the Lord of Normandy. Jamal is quickly welcomed into
the castle and offered a place to stay, but soon realizes that he is
definitely not at a theme part, and his life may very well be in danger
if anyone discovers his real identity.
For a while, director Gil Junger (1999's "10 Things I Hate About You") gets
a lot of mileage out of the extreme "fish-out-of-water" premise, aided
by Martin Lawrence's charmingly zany shtick. When he proclaims himself
a Jester, as well as a Lord, the townspeople immediately mistake him for
a comedian, finding it especially hilarious when they witness him being
attacked by a horse. For that three minutes of running time, all of the
forces behind the movie come together to create a very funny sequence
that is never even closely equaled again.
Save for such solitary bright moments, "Black Knight" is a comedy unworthy
of Lawrence's talents. Written by Darryl J. Quarles, Peter Gaulke, and
Gerry Swallow, the film stumbles by only having enough solid material to
fill up 30 minutes, with the rest confused about what genre it wants to
fall into. Is it a comedy? Most of the time, but not a memorable one.
An adventure? It is near the end, and the sword battles go on far too
long. A romance? Not enough to hold any sort of weight or value. A
morality tale? It is too superficial to take on that sort of lofty ambition.
At the very least, Martin Lawrence gets more opportunities to strut his
stuff than he did in "What's the Worst That Could Happen?," but he deserves
better than second-rate. As Jamal's destined love interest, Victoria,
newcomer Marsha Thomason is a fresh-faced beauty with a tough, stubborn
side that makes her more than just a passive bystander. It is
disappointing that not more is done with the feelings that arouse between
Victoria and Jamal, nor is there much of an outcome to their relationship.
"Black Knight" is an aimless motion picture that never finds a clear
destination to get to, and spends a too-long 95 minutes trying to get
there. Almost with the appearance of having been filmed on a cardboard
set in someone's backyard, the production values are also off-puttingly
subpar in comparison to the projects Martin Lawrence is usually involved
in. "Black Knight" proves to be an instantly forgettable and disposable affair.
Copyright © 2001 Dustin Putman