Funny man Martin Lawrence (Bad Boys) suits up for the oftentimes hilarious but sometimes drab
of water" tale, Black Knight. It's a Comedy about a modern-era urban slacker who is suddenly thrust backwards in time by several
Of course, it's hardly original, but it's heartily fun. The idea of modern man circling back hundreds of years to medieval times dates back at least to
Mark Twain's popular A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. Twain's followup to Adventures of Huckleberry Finn remains
staple of Satire, Comedy, and even Science Fiction. It's an idea that was made into an abysmal movie, A Kid in King Arthur's Court, about a
lad (and his portable CD player) who finds the same basic fate as Twain's Hank Morgan. It's an idea that was also no doubt the inspiration for a
of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure ("Iron Maiden? Excellent!") and it's
most certainly the foundation for Lawrence's film. Black Knight earns plenty of laughs with its modern urban
at least there's no CD player laser or other such obvious nonsense to save the day.
Jamal Walker (Lawrence) works a dead-end maintenance job at an even deader-end medieval castle theme park. A new, hugely improved park of
theme is opening up in a couple of weeks, and it's only a couple of miles away. It's a death sentence for a park already on life support, and Walker
knows that. He's already picked up a job application for the new park, but it may be a few hundred years before he hears anything. While picking
debris out of the park's murky water, he grabs hold of a glowing medallion and soon finds himself transported to another place, another
time. But he's a little too dense to realize that. He believes he's been ferried to the other park, and what a park it is. It even has the
rotten medieval smell down pat. He does his best to play along with the gag. He calls himself "Skywalker" and passes himself off as a
messenger and a jester from Normandy. Soon upon his arrival, he meets the lovely chambermaid Victoria (Marsha Thomason) to whom he is
instantly attracted. However, he quickly finds himself in the middle of a plot to overthrow the king and return the deposed queen to her rightful
throne. But it's all fun and games and make-believe, right?
Black Knight earns most of its laughs and all of its redeeming values from the interplay between modern urbanite and olden knights, kings,
peasants, damsels, livestock, and all other forms and features of medieval times. Lawrence shows a strong command of what, exactly, the interplay
requires to work. He finds an approachable, likable modern style and keeps the audience on its toes and in a fairly constant state of laughter. His
banter and antics are never understated but neither are they overblown. Whether wooing girls with his modern tongue (in more ways than one),
riding a stubborn horse, or finding his own personal code as he finds himself mixed up in a rebellion against the king, Lawrence maintains a positive
character balance, never sending his Jamal over the top but never downplaying any of the gags, either. Lawrence makes the movie work almost
on his own merits, his capable delivery of jokes, and his more than adequate turn when the scene demands greater drama, tenderness, or action.
Lawrence's many positive contributions prove even more critical considering that the rest of the movie is nothing much more than an empty vessel
for his talents. The plot is razor-thin and terribly predictable. In fact, most of the second half of the movie is little more than a waiting game as the
inevitable begins to play out. The film loses steam as it slowly drifts away from the laughs and a little more into the meat of the drama and action.
Lawrence still maintains a positive vibe, however, but the laugh ratio certainly diminishes the more the picture moves away from its gut-busting first
half and more towards its routine second. Otherwise, the film proves technically adequate. There's nothing extraordinary about the production
design -- it's certainly not as resplendent and exacting as The Pillars of the Earth -- but the film holds its own, visually, with just
enough regal razzle-dazzle-versus-peasantry-muck and basically convincing sets and costumes to define the periphery and help accentuate the
Black Knight rides onto Blu-ray with a decent high definition transfer. It's rather dull and fairly flat, with colors that never pop and details that
aren't all that. It displays tattered peasant garb, the more regal clothes, muck and mud, castle walls, and the like nicely enough, but not with the sort of
eye catching, lifelike details and nuance found on the best transfers. Likewise, the color palette is basically effective but not what viewers would expect
of a top end Blu-ray. Jamal's green football jersey stands out from the crowd, but even that lacks a real, genuine brilliance, even up against many of
the naturally duller earthen tones seen around the film. Black levels are decent, as are flesh tones. There are some occasional speckles and pops, but
they never appear in force. This is a watchable but not particularly noteworthy catalogue transfer from Anchor Bay.
Black Knight arrives on Blu-ray with a fairly good Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack. There's a decent enough presence to the Hip Hop music
that plays at the beginning; it's aggressive in energy and spacing and spreads out out well across both the front and the back while also enjoying honest
clarity and solid bass. When Jamal first arrives in medieval times, the sounds of nature nicely immerse the listener in the environment, and various
other ambient effects, particularly in bustling exteriors, are fairly reproduced. The big battle near the end delivers sufficient power and clarity. There are
a few instances where the track sounds a little muddled, where clarity and precision are lacking, particularly early in the film when the employees and
the boss discuss the future of the park. Even dialogue in that scene comes through a bit underwhelming. It all picks up nicely enough, however, later in
the film. Nothing here is an any way spectacular, but the track generally provides a serviceable listening experience.
Black Knight contains no extras, and no menu is included. The film begins playback immediately after disc insertion. Optional English SDH
subtitles must be switched on or off in-film with the remote control.
Martin Lawrence is the only real reason to watch Black Knight. It's a star vehicle if there ever was one and a showcase for his comedic timing
and talents. Lawrence dominates every scene and merrily finds that contrast between modern urbanite and medieval denizen very well. The jokes are
spot-on and well-delivered. This is simple but highly effective escapist entertainment, a movie surely not for anyone in the mood for serious filmmaking
but perfect for those looking for a good, relaxing little movie sure to bring a smile to the face. Anchor Bay's featureless Blu-ray offers adequate video and
audio. Worth a rental and
perhaps a purchase at a rock-bottom price.
Anchor Bay is releasing eleven bargain-priced Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment catalog titles on May 28th: Airheads, Bedazzled (2000), Best Laid Plans, Black Knight, Chasing Papi, Dying Young, Jumpin' Jack Flash, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, The Newton Boys, ...