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Reviewed October 22nd, 2002 by David Nusair


In Black Knight, Martin Lawrence plays a contemporary laze-about transplanted to the 14th century via a magical medallion. It’s a pretty out-there premise, but it does bring back that tried and true fish-out-of-water formula that’s been conspicuously absent from theaters these last few years.

Jamal (Lawrence) works at a medieval theme park, content enough making little money in a dead-end job. One day, though, while cleaning the moat, he spots a piece of jewelry floating in the dank water. Assuming it’s an antique worth some cash, he reaches for it – only to find himself sucked into the pond. Upon waking up, he doesn’t recognize his surroundings but figures he must be near the interstate. After walking a few feet, he spots a huge fortress which he assumes to be the new theme park his boss told him about, Castle World. After a ridiculously long time (and being mistaken for a messenger from France), Jamal finally realizes that he’s been transported back to the year 1392. He initially wants nothing more than to return to his own time, but eventually winds up a part of a rebellion – led, of course, by a beautiful woman he had his eye on.

The first 23 minutes of Black Knight (yes, I timed it) are easily the most effective, with Lawrence stumbling around medieval England under the assumption that he’s still in the present. Sure, it’s completely ludicrous but that’s exactly what makes it so funny. For example, after he’s initially refused entry into the castle, Jamal tells the guards that he’s from Florence and Normandy (which is, to Jamal, the intersection near his home in South Central L.A.) Of course, the guards assume he’s talking about Florence, Italy and Normandy, France and immediately grant him passage. That’s funny stuff, but Black Knight allows Lawrence to learn the truth far sooner than he should have and the movie quickly becomes routine and mundane.

A good example of that is a sequence that finds Jamal attempting to teach the various musicians in the King’s court to play a funky modern song. Though it’s a humorous idea, the execution is all wrong and the sequence goes on much longer than it needs to. The same can be said of several other comedic set pieces, including a section later in the film that finds Lawrence teaching 14th century soldiers some decidedly 20th century fighting techniques. It’s a reasonably funny idea ruined by overlength and sheer obviousness.

But the cast is certainly game, especially recent Oscar nominee Tom Wilkinson (!) as a disgraced servant of the Queen. Lawrence, in particular, has an easy-going charm about him and unlike someone like Chris Rock, he’s a decent enough actor. Unfortunately, charm alone isn’t enough to keep the film going, but at least it’s entertaining for the majority of it’s running time.

Audio: Black Knight is presented with a DD 5.1 soundtrack, and it’s expectedly quite impressive. Though it is a comedy and one wouldn’t necessarily expect a lot of surround effects, the few times ambient sounds are used (such as when Jamal is almost trampled by a pack of horses), you can certainly feel it coming from all around you. Having said that, this is a movie that relies on dialogue, so the real question is – how does it sound? It’s always clear and sharp, and never sounds muffled or drowned out by music or sound effects.

Video: This 2.35:1 anamorphically enhanced transfer is just as good as you might expect a new release to be. Though it’s not quite as sharp as it could be and seems a little soft, the transfer is otherwise excellent.

Extras: First up is a commentary track with director Gil Junger. This track contains everything that makes for a good commentary – it’s informative and extremely entertaining. Though he’s awfully effusive towards everyone in the cast (he’s constantly calling Lawrence a comedic genius), he does have a lot of interesting tidbits to share in a funny way. In fact, there are several moments in this track that are funnier than anything in the actual movie. A great track. Next up is something called “Martin on Moviemaking,” which is just two sequences from the film with Lawrence commentary (he appears via picture-in-picture). This proves to be the anti-thesis of the Junger commentary, as Lawrence is actually quite dull. But it could make for a fun drinking game, as he says “you know” far more times than I could count. Up next are a minute and a half’s worth of outtakes, all shown widescreen. Nothing terribly hilarious here.

Next are a series of featurettes, starting with an eight minute doc entitled “A Timeless Friendship.” This details the three main actors and how they came to the project. It’s not exactly fascinating, but anything featuring Tom Wilkinson can’t be all bad. Next is “Pratfalls and Parapets” which runs around five minutes. As the title indicates, this is all about the stuntwork in the film. There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes clips of stuntmen working with horses and the like, so it’s pretty interesting. Finally, there’s “Construction” and it runs around four minutes. Not surprisingly, it deals with the set design and construction and will likely appeal to those who are into that sort of thing. Rounding out this section of the disc are two storyboard-to-screen comparisons, called “Rope-a-Dope” and “The Coliseum.”

Next up are three deleted scenes, with optional commentary. Nothing really stands out here, though (again) Junger’s comments are very entertaining. Rounding out the disc are a short featurette on Paula Abdul’s choreography, two trailers, and trailers for Minority Report and Unfaithful.

Conclusion: Black Knight is a silly romp that’s basically entertaining, and this package ensures that its fans will be happy.


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