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.
©2001 by Dustin Putman