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Movie Review

Black Knight is the new Martin Lawrence comedy/adventure about a modern theme-park employee who finds himself magically transported back to the Middle Ages. Jamal Walker works at L.A.’s dilapidated Medieval World, a languishing Renaissance park that suddenly finds itself threatened by new competition across town. While cleaning out the stagnant moat, Jamal falls in and resurfaces in 14th century England. He immediately encounters a grungy former knight (Wilkinson) who has taken to using alcohol to wash the rancid taste of disgrace from his mouth. It seems he failed his queen, who was then deposed by an evil king. Now a revolution is afoot to restore her to her crown, and Jamal walks right into the thick of it. To save his skin, he poses as a messenger/jester from a neighboring land and proceeds to educate the locals on 21st-century black culture, teaching them how to dance and dropping names such as Shaq & Kobe, Puffy Combs, Denzel Washington, Tiger Woods, Al Sharpton, Rodney King and Mariah Carey. Motivated by his attraction to a beautiful chambermaid and freedom fighter named Victoria, Jamal puts self-preservation on the back burner and joins the battle. Is all of this really happening or is the jive-talking Jamal just an urban Dorothy sojourning in his own Oz? Frankly, it doesn’t much matter. Only die-hard Martin Lawrence fans will still care by the time they’re asked to consider that possibility. Black Knight is insultingly lazy, slapdash filmmaking—an embarrassment at every level.

positive elements: Noble deeds make Jamal a sympathetic (if shallow) character. Before realizing he has time-warped, he meets the destitute Knolte, gives the poor fellow a few bucks and advises him to apply for food stamps and find a homeless shelter. He intervenes when a boorish knight grabs a woman’s breasts in the marketplace. He also shows mercy to a man sentenced to death for stealing a turnip to feed his starving family, quietly setting him free and giving him a bag of coins. Dedicated to the cause of her people, Victoria turns down a tempting invitation to accompany Jamal to his relatively carefree world where bright, liberated women receive respect. Knolte and Jamal come to each other’s rescue in life-and-death struggles. Returned to the present after nearly drowning, Jamal is told that he could exploit his accident and sue his employer, an idea he rejects ("There’s no honor in that").

spiritual content: A priest waves last rites over people about to be executed (a sentenced Jamal protests to the rector that he goes to church and pays his tithe). In a last-ditch attempt to avoid beheading, Jamal plays on the unsophisticated superstitions of the people by claiming to be a mighty sorcerer. His pep talk to peasants who’ve lost their stomach for battle takes on the tenor of a sermon ("Can I get an Amen?") minus any truly spiritual content.

sexual content: In addition to partial breast nudity, there’s quite a bit of sexual dialogue, and Jamal is a rutting male. No sooner does he meet Victoria than he propositions her and asks if she has a thong. For the benefit of guards standing outside who think the couple is having sex, Jamal and Victoria pepper a hushed conversation with orgasmic noises and sexual comments. The king offers him a free romp with any maiden he likes. Later, Jamal is reluctant to accept a post in the king’s court until his royal highness sweetens the deal with an offer he can’t refuse: "I would also give you women for your bed—as many as you need." The one girl who is off-limits is the king’s betrothed daughter, who naturally takes a liking to Jamal. The pair is shown french kissing and eventually wind up in bed. A present-day female claims to have wasted a lot of time coming on to a man who turned out to be gay.

violent content: This may be a comedy, but the film’s surprising amount of violence is played straight. Some is fairly graphic. A treasonous peasant is beheaded with an axe (the severed noggin rolls to Jamal’s feet and he picks it up). That grisly trophy is impaled on a spear and displayed alongside other decapitated heads. Swordplay frequently ends with people being hacked or skewered. Guards with crossbows accidentally shoot each other at close range. In fact, numerous characters are shown in close-up getting hit with arrows (some flaming). Others fall from heights or are beaten up in hand-to-hand combat.

crude or profane language: Mild sexual slang and more than 40 profanities (almost exclusively s---, d--n and a--). Obscene graffiti on a castle wall is partially obscured, though it’s obvious the f-word is involved.

drug and alcohol content: Knolte is intoxicated when first introduced. Fortunately, another scene exposes the pitiful depths of alcoholism (he’s so desperate for a drink that he’s prepared to retrieve a filthy flask from a dung heap). Questioning Jamal’s state of mind, his boss asks, "You on the [crack] pipe?"

other negative elements: The king experiences explosive flatulence. Several of Jamal’s wall-to-wall one-liners reinforce questionable urban stereotypes, while others reek of "reverse racism." Some viewers may be put off by a bloodletting that shows Jamal frantically peeling leeches from his back and neck.

conclusion: The movie is just as unfunny as the TV commercials—only longer. It’s basically the mirror image of another Medieval fish-out-of-water dud from 2001, Just Visiting. Fortunately, at the crowded screening I attended, a man sat down in the lone seat beside me with not one, but two ornery children squirming on his lap. One was a feisty 2-year-old girl. The drama was intense. Would the squealing child ever settle down and be quiet? How long would it take the inconsiderate dad to do the right thing and escort his restless moppets outside? Hilarity ensued when he tried to pass his writhing daughter down a row to where Mom sat pretending not to hear his pleas of "She wants you!" What a performance by that woman! This epic struggle continued for quite some time. The most poignant moment occurred when people all around us began clearing their throats and shooting icy glares in the dad’s direction. Conflict seemed imminent. But just as emotions reached their peak, the father picked up his kids, retrieved their jackets from a pool of once-carbonated soda the girl had spilled at our feet, and—to tepid applause—marched toward the lobby, leaving enough litter in his wake to fill a small moving van. Wow!

Don’t you hate it when an enjoyable entertainment experience is interrupted by an irresponsible string of childish, juvenile antics . . . in this case coming from the screen? Black Knight is a painfully unfunny, sloppily made film. A total waste of time. There’s no real story to care about, not an original idea within miles, and the gags are as stupid as they are offensive. As desperate as the humor is, it’s a wonder they didn’t repeat the old "Sire, the peasants are revolting!" joke. When the comic crescendo involves a bad guy getting a mouthful of horse pucky, all I can say is this: To that screaming, pig-tailed little girl, "Thank you for salvaging my hour and a half." To parents wondering if they should let young teens attend Black Knight, the film’s violence, profanity and sexual misconduct give you even more reason to pull up the drawbridge.


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