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Black Knight  Print E-mail
DVD Comedy
Written by Mel Odom   
Tuesday, 16 April 2002



title:
Black Knight


studio:
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
MPAA rating: PG-13
starring: Martin Lawrence, Marsha Thomason, Tom Wilkinson
release year: 2001
film rating: Four Stars
sound/picture: Four Stars
reviewed by: Mel Odom

Martin Lawrence’s new movie "Black Knight" isn’t an original idea. Mark Twain penned the immortal story "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court" over a hundred years ago. Like the Twain novel, Lawrence’s new movie transports a guy from the present day into the medieval world, and into all the political intrigues and violence of the day. However, where Twain’s character played pretty much straight with the story and adventure, "Black Knight" goes straight for the jugular in a laugh-out-loud riot of fun.

Lawrence’s character Jamal Walker is a slacker, a guy who does just enough to get by, moving from one dollar to the next. He works at Medieval World, a family fun spot that is about to go head-to-head with a new medieval entertainment complex, Castle World. Jamal’s advice to his boss: take the money she’s made and run.

Chapter 1 opens with a ringing hip-hop beat that fires up the center and front speakers, and brings up some action from the rear speakers. The track also plugs the subwoofer into action with a basso thumping that gets the viewer’s heart going. Jamal is in the bathroom, primping and posing, flossing his teeth, and breaking it down to the music. The realism of the world comes through in the whirl of traffic Jamal encounters on his way to work. The sudden burst of pigeons taking flight rips through the right main speaker, making the scene come to life.

Jamal finds an artifact in the moat around Medieval World while doing clean-up. The sudden thumping of the subwoofer as Jamal is pulled into the moat while reaching for the artifact builds slowly, then crescendos as Jamal disappears under the water.

In Chapter 4, Jamal reappears in a lake, gasping for breath. The bird calls, insects and splashing roll through the speakers, making the viewer feel that he or she is waiting nearby on the bank. When Jamal reaches the bank and crashes through the leaves and brush, the effect continues.

On relatively dry land, Jamal encounters old and homeless drunk Knolte (Tom Wilkinson), who wears steel shoes. During this encounter, Lawrence unleashes some of the comic work that has made him a household name in the field of comedy. The exchange between stage-trained British actor Wilkinson and American comedy improv jokester Lawrence sets the tone for the friendship and the madcap adventure that is just getting underway.

After getting the old man back on his feet, Jamal escorts Knolte back to the piece of wilderness he’s currently calling home. The horse on the left side of the screen whinnies, and the sound issues realistically from the left main.

Reaching a village instead of the highway he’s looking for, Jamal is nearly ran down by a group of men on horseback in Chapter 5. The jangle of the horses’ barding and the thudding hoofbeats slam through the main and center speakers, echoing through the subwoofer. The hooves ring realistically again when the riders cross the wooden bridge leading into the towering edifice that Jamal believes to be Castle World. He, of course, takes advantage of the situation to go in and apply for a job.

The castle, which a dedicated DVD viewer can learn about while cruising through the special features, is built to scale. Pain-staking effort was taken to make the castle look true to life.

In the castle, Jamal meets Victoria, a beautiful siren who is destined to help change Jamal’s life forever. Taking control of the situation, Jamal resorts to passing himself off as a talent agent trying to mack on Victoria. He ends up in a confrontation with Percival, the captain of security for King Leo. For a moment, it looks like Jamal’s incredible adventure is doomed to an early finish. Luckily, the mix-up that makes everyone think he is the messenger from Normandy who everyone has been anxious awaiting prevents Percival from killing him outright.

Jamal’s formal introduction to King Leo in Chapter 7 is absolutely to die for. If the viewer has somehow become confused and thinks for a moment that he or she is simply watching a regular adventure, Jamal’s entrance into the king’s chambers blows that out of the water.

While the king concerns himself with the Duke of Normandy’s arrival, Jamal auditions for the job he’s sure is waiting for him. The crowd’s laughter at the king’s turn of a joke rolls through the mains, rears and center speakers, giving the viewer the impression that he or she is in the center of the room and part of the crowd of onlookers.

The tour of the castle continues, and the viewer is caught up with Jamal’s joy at being in such a place. After all, this would be a really cool place to work. One of the funniest scenes in the movie is Jamal’s introduction to the castle privy. According to the information in the special features section of the DVD, Junger says Lawrence had little real acting to do in this scene. The privy conditions and supplies genuinely grossed out Lawrence. He hadn’t known how bad hygiene conditions were in the Middle Ages (which puts him in company with much of the audience).

In Chapter 8, while attending a public beheading, thinking the execution is simply another performance, Jamal’s innocence is rudely ripped away. The axe grinding on the whetstone rings through the main and center speakers, loud and strong enough to bring goosebumps to those with sensitive hearing.

When Jamal wakes in Chapter 9, he freaks. This is one of the film’s total Martin Lawrence moments. Where the film clings to the solid adventure story of a man out of his time, Lawrence goes big with his improv line, throwing a fresh mix of comedy into the story.

Jamal’s comedy of errors continues as he gets to know everyone. In no time at all, he’s mounted on a fiery horse that seems homicidal, earns the unending enmity of Percival, learns the woman that he is attracted to is part of the underground movement to return the deposed queen to power, and is made to dance before the king. The dance number is awesome, choreographed by Paula Abdul, who also took charge of the medieval dance numbers.

The story continues, taking twists and turns, some of them predictable and others with a new spin. Jamal’s fortunes rise and fall, providing more and more opportunity for the comedy that makes this DVD rock. The music score jams away, filling the surround sound system with hip-hop beats.

In Chapter 16, Jamal receives a mysterious visitor to his bed in the middle of the night that changes his fortunes with King Leo. The door slams through the right main speaker, giving a physical position to the visitor.

"Black Knight" comes packed with several extras. The commentary by director Gil Junger provides insight into the film’s vision, and Lawrence delivers a welcome and diverting discussion of the two characters of Knolte and Jamal. The featurettes on the construction of the set and the choreography of the dance number are fun and informative.

"Black Knight" is a great DVD for Lawrence fans and/or for someone who enjoys watching medieval adventure, who will probably want to add the DVD to the home collection. For those not interested in collecting but who are interested in a fun night and a popcorn movie with a touch of the risqué, "Black Knight" is an excellent choice. The nice and totally unexpected twist at the end perhaps indicates there’s a sequel in the works.

more details
sound format:
English 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround; Spanish Dolby Digital Surround, French Dolby Digital Surround
aspect ratio(s):
2.35:1
special features: "Full-Length Audio Commentary by Director Gil Junger; Scene Specific Commentary by Martin Lawrence; Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary; Choreography Featurette with Paula Abdul; Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes; Outtakes; Storyboard-to-Scene Comparisons; Theatrical Trailers; English Closed-Captioning
comments: email us here...
   
reference system
DVD player: Pioneer DV-C302D
receiver: RCA RT2280
main speakers: RCA RT2280
center speaker: RCA RT2280
rear speakers: RCA RT2280
subwoofer: RCA RT2280
monitor: 42-inch Toshiba HD Projection TV








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